LawProse Lesson #207: Three ways to improve a statement of facts.

LawProse Lesson #207: Three ways to improve a statement of facts.

Three ways to improve a statement of facts. First, let it progress naturally from beginning to end—almost invariably in chronological order. Just tell the judge your story of the relevant events that gave rise to this legal dispute. Presenting the facts in order gives the judge a more coherent picture of the case. Second, remove all argument and editorializing. Those don’t belong in a statement of facts. Including them is counterproductive because doing so is inevitably transparent. As if that weren’t enough, argument within a statement of facts may even violate court rules. Third, unflinchingly include the unfavorable as well as the favorable facts. At best, you lose credibility fast if you unfairly exclude germane facts that don’t support you. And you’ll fail to make a good argument that overcomes them. At worst, the judge will think you’re cherry-picking what to divulge—and maybe even think you’re hiding something from the court. The statement of facts in a brief gives you an opportunity to shine as a storyteller. Learn the techniques of writing short stories. But never forget you’re dealing in nonfiction! Further reading: Garner, The Winning Brief 524–46; 725–28; 739–42 (3d ed. 2014) (with many detailed examples). Antonin Scalia & Bryan A. Garner, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges 93–96 (2008).

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