The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
I impose strict word limits on all of my exams. I usually assign two questions, each with a 1,000-word limit. I do this to fairly assess all papers. There is no way to compare Student #1, who can write 1,000 words in three hours, and Student #2, who can dump 3,000 words in an hour. Students who can write more will invariably stumble onto additional points, even if they have no idea what the right answer is. Quality matters, not quantity. Students should not be rewarded for verbal diarrhea
Students often complain about the word limits. I counter that in practice, they will have to adhere to court-imposed word limits on briefs. I've joked that some amicus briefs I've filed are about the same length as their 2,000 word exams.
Today, Dean Kagan upped the ante. She gave the Oregon Secretary of State a pop quiz:
Supplemental brief requested by Justice Kagan. The applicant, Secretary of State Beverly Clarno, is directed to file a supplemental brief by 8 p.m. ET today, August 7, 2020, addressing the following question: Whether the Secretary of State consents to the Oregon Attorney General's appearance on her behalf in proceedings in this Court. The brief is not to exceed 100 words. Any supplemental brief filed by respondents in response must be filed by 12 p.m. ET on Monday, August 10, and may not exceed 100 words.
100 words! Kagan's docket entry was 85 words. It took nearly as many words to describe the order, as it will to actually respond to it. And it has to be submitted on the same day.
Of course, the Secretary of State could be blunt, and simply respond with one word "Yes." That would be killer. The Respondent should submit a reply with a single word. "Pass."
Update: The Attorney General filed a reply that clocked in at 87 words, almost the exact same length as the order:
The Oregon Secretary of State consents to the Oregon Attorney General's appearance on behalf of the Secretary as an official-capacity party in proceedings in this Court. The Secretary's consent to the appearance should not be taken as her personal agreement as a policy matter with the stay application. The Secretary did not request an appeal; she has deferred to the Attorney General's litigation decisions as the state's chief legal officer. But to the extent that consent to the appearance in an official-capacity proceeding is required, she consents.