Judge Katzmann, extraordinary 2nd Cir. judge, died yesterday. As my tribute to his judicial career, here's a #WilenskyOnStyle thread from one of his last published opinions. It's a masterful display of reader-friendly writing, creating order from statutory chaos. /1
If you see the phrase "statutory chaos" and think "must be an immigration case" . . . you're right! Here's the opinion. /2 ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isys…
Any opinion that starts with a sentence like this is catnip for LegReg nerds. /3 In this case, we examine the architecture of a statutory reg
The case is about whether someone whose parent naturalized while she was in the middle of seeking an immigration visa is entitled to have her age backdated, so that she benefits from a statutory provision making visas quicker to obtain if you're the minor child of a citizen. /4
Right off the bat, Judge Katzmann does something useful: He describes both (1) the legal holding and (2) the "here's what it means in this case" holding. That's helpful for the attorney who needs to know what to tell his client right away! /5 The question before us is whether the term "age" i
I tried to think of ways to show you the complexity of the immigration provisions that Katzmann analyzes in this opinion, so you can appreciate the difficulty of the writer's task. /6
But he is pulling from provisions buried in 3 different sections of the 8 U.S.C., across 40 pages of statutory text, and I couldn't easily show you that, so I'll just tell you . . . it's a lot. /7
That's why this set of bullet points is so remarkable. They're positively elegant. And unless you know that this material was scattered across different sections that do different things, it's hard to appreciate the beauty of this list. /8 Four types of such visas are relevant to this appeal: Immedi
Once he's walked through all of the very detailed statutory text, Judge Katzmann helpfully provides this summation. /9 Thus, there are two relevant waiting periods for F1, F2A, an
One problem I sometimes see when a legal writer digs into some thorny text, doctrine, or set of facts is this: They get so caught up in the details that they forget to explain why it all matters; that deprives the reader of important context. Not Judge Katzmann: /10 When applying for a visa, age is extremely important. A mino
Something that students in particular struggle with is knowing when the reader needs to know things like the history of a statute. Here's a great example of when we *do* need the history to understand what the current text is supposed to be doing. /11 Because the age determination is made after all that waitingTo fix this problem, Congress in 2002 - with unanimous bipar
Here Judge Katzmann displays a really useful tool in the writer's toolbox: Repeating key information. Readers have limited memory. So it's fine - helpful even! - to repeat important and complex information at important moments in the discussion. /12 Recall that, for immediate-relative visa seekers, the only dIt bears repeating that only the processing time - i.e., bur
Then, at the end of a lengthy discussion of the statutory provisions, Judge Katzmann sums up the key points. And he uses bullet points again, to make his summation especially reader-friendly. And that makes it easy for him to tee up the precise issue in the case. /13 To recap, the CSPA indisputably covers most eventualities. [
Notice how those 4 bullet points are culled from deep within 3 different statutory provisions? They come from 1151, 1153, and 1154. / 14
To help you appreciate the complexity, I've dug down to the specific provisions and highlighted them here. /15 Snippet of statutory text from 8 USC 1151(f)(1).
And then Judge Katzmann pulls together the key principles that emerge from all of this text, and sets up a nice, parallel list with the consequences for the facts of this case. /16 Three core structural principles permeate the CSPA and the f
The entire opinion is really just a great illustration of how to impose structure on a mess. /17
One final thing I enjoyed: This section on legislative history. /18 While reliance on legislative purpose is sometimes criticize
Judge Katzmann wrote the book - literally! - on legislative history. So when he writes about it, he writes with authority. /19 global.oup.com/academic/produ…
Deepest condolences to Judge Katzmann's family, friends, and colleagues. The bench and legal profession lost a remarkable jurist and writer. /fin

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More from @bethwilensky

12 Mar
Let's talk about distinguishing cases! I often see students make the error that the 5th Circuit made here. But my students are 1Ls; I *expect* them to make this error, and it's my job to point it out. So what, exactly, did the 5th Circuit get wrong? /1
I'll leave the substantive Bivens question to the experts. But here's the writing point I want my students to learn: When distinguishing cases, it's not enough to say "here are ways in which the facts of this case differ from the facts of that case." /2
You also have to explain *why those differences are legally significant.* Every case is different from the precedent case in a bunch of ways. But it's the "why should these differences lead to a different outcome" explanation that makes the legal analysis sound. /3
Read 4 tweets
11 Mar
Mazel tov to AG Garland! In honor of his retirement from the DC Circuit, here's a #WilenskyOnStyle thread unpacking some of his writing choices from his final reported opinion. It's an admin law case, a great one to showcase how good writers handle complex regulatory schemes. /1
The case is Mirror Lake Village, LLC v. Wolf, an immigration case handed down in August 2020. Full opinion here: cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opini… /2
Judge Garland developed lots of experience breaking down regs during his time on the bench. Here's how he works through law in three paragraphs: One para that describes the statutory terms, one for the regulatory terms, and one that describes how it works in practice./3 Paragraph one starts "The EB-5 program . . . is part of
Read 20 tweets
6 Dec 20
Hi folks! The 11th Cir. handed down a new election opinion yesterday and if you’ve been following me you won’t be surprised that I have Some Things To Say about C.J. Pryor’s writing choices. (I’m going to use #WilenskyOnStyle – h/t @daniellecitron – to collect these threads.) /1
The full opinion is here. : assets.documentcloud.org/documents/7334… /2
This thread is especially directed at law students. Judicial opinions differ from legal memos, motions, etc. – different purposes, different audiences – but this opinion happens to use some standard techniques that work well for many kinds of legal writing. /3
Read 24 tweets
4 Dec 20
The 11th Cir. just issued an order denying the GOP's latest attempt to overturn election results, this time in Georgia. And while the opinion has plenty for procedure nerds to love, I'm going to focus on the aspects of Judge Brasher's opinion that us style nerds love. /1
First, the straightforward issue presented and answer right at the beginning. /3 The issue before us, however, is a narrow question of appell
Read 12 tweets
27 Nov 20
A few style thoughts about today's 3rd Circuit ruling smacking down the Trump Campaign's latest attempt to overturn the election results. Judge Bibas is fast becoming one of my favorite writers on the federal appellate bench. justsecurity.org/wp-content/upl… /1
First, notice how he moves effortlessly from "Trump Presidential Campaign" to just "Campaign" without the silly and unnecessary parenthetical (hereinafter "Campaign"). He knows we know which Campaign he means. /2 The Trump Presidential Campaign asserts that Pennsylvania's
Next, look as these teeny tiny transition words. They do lots of nearly-invisible work to move the reader effortlessly through the paragraph. /3 Nor does the Campaign deserve an injunction to undo Pennsylv
Read 9 tweets
13 Jul 20
This is an excellent addition to the convo around becoming an LRW prof. I agree w/ everything @IreneTenCate says here, and want to link to a few key articles re where our profession needs to do better. /1
In particular, @genremixtress’s scholarship about being an LRW prof of color is required reading for everyone in legal academia. /2
Start with “On Writing Wrongs: Legal Writing Professors of Color and the Curious Case of 405(c).” /3 jle.aals.org/home/vol66/iss…
Read 8 tweets

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