Subtle Wit and Subtle Eloquence in Briefs

In my First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic this Fall, students will naturally be told to write clearly, concretely, and precisely, with sound reasoning and in a calm, credible tone. But while that’s important, it does help to have some flair, some wit, and even some eloquence, if it doesn’t undermine the other requirements.

Naturally, this sort of thing doesn’t come easily even to experienced writers, much less to students Indeed, attempts at wit and eloquence often backfire, for instance if they sacrifice a precise description for a more colorful but imprecise one, or if they make the brief seem strident or exaggerated. They also risk distracting the reader instead of winning him over. At the same time, a colorful and memorable way of putting something, especially when it captures the moral or practical truth at the heart of the argument, can help move the reader to see things your way.

I’d therefore like to show students some particularly effective passages, from briefs filed in court, that have a suitable (which I think in this case must mean subtle) wit or eloquence. Can any of you recommend some examples? Please post the relevant passages in the comments, together with a citation to the brief itself. I am not looking for such passages from judicial opinions; judges can get away with things that lawyers cannot. I’m also not looking for entire briefs — I’ll have my students read several briefs that are generally quite effective, but for this part of their education I’d like to give them just short excerpts. Many thanks to those of you who can help with this.

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