When I was looking for jurisprudence surrounding the dollar bill issue a few days ago, I stumbled upon this ruling. The otherwise unimportant case of Snell v. Commonwealth of Virginia stuck out as having a lot of citations. In high school we were always tough the age-old dictum about citing our sources, but this opinion takes that to an extreme. Look at this paragraph:

Snell finds fault with this reasoning, arguing that the incriminating circumstances in this case proved nothing with certitude. We concede the point. The probable cause test, however, is not calibrated to “deal with hard certainties, but with probabilities.” Id. (citation omitted). Nor does it “demand any showing that such a belief be correct or more likely true than false.” Id. (quoting Texas v. Brown, 460 U.S. 730, 741 (1983) (plurality op.)). “Finely tuned standards such as proof beyond a reasonable doubt or by a preponderance of the evidence, useful in formal trials, have no place in the probable-cause decision.” Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366, 371 (2003) (citation and internal brackets omitted). Not even a “prima facie showing” of criminality is required. Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 235 (1983) (citation omitted). Instead, probable cause “requires only a probability or substantial chance of criminal activity, not an actual showing of such activity.” Id. at 243 n.13 (emphasis added). Police officers, therefore, need not be “possessed of near certainty as to the seizable nature of the items.” Brown, 460 U.S. at 741.

According to Microsoft Word, here is the breakdown:
181 total words
131 words were quoted or part of a citation
50 words were original

This trend isn’t limited to the lower courts. The Supreme Court Justices tend to do the same thing in order to prove that they have precedent on their side, regardless of whether or not the cited cases are truly applicable. I do believe that quotations can be used effectively but often they are not. Judges write opinions for lawyers but a valid argument can be made for the value of reasonably readable and accessible opinions. The more people want to read opinions, the more strength the court gets in crafting its decisions.

1 Response to ““Is” “Quot[ing]” “Always” “Good” “Thing”?”

  1. 1 Tyler

    I guess it’s a good thing. Who wants a judge to make up an original thought? I don’t, especially with this court. I just want Ruth.

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