Persuading the Supreme Court: The Significance of Briefs in Judicial Decision-Making, Rachael K. Hinkle and Morgan Hazelton

Reviewed by Rachel A. Spooner

Legal briefs are the primary way that litigants and interested parties communicate with the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. In Persuading the Supreme Court: The Significance of Briefs in Judicial Decision-Making, Morgan Hazelton and Rachael Hinkle utilize a mixed-methods approach, combining more than 25,000 briefs with in-depth interviews with former law clerks and attorneys that have experience before the Court, to offer an investigation of how merits briefs function. The authors offer insights as to how briefs affect the decisions that justices make and ultimately provide concrete strategies that will be of interest to practitioners, as well.

While scholars have long theorized about how information influences the justices’ decision-making, in the first half of the book, Hazelton and Hinkle evaluate how litigants and amici produce and present the information in the first place. In chapter two, the authors tackle the craft of merits brief writing and hypothesize that higher-quality briefs are more likely to be produced by parties with resource, experience, and expertise advantages. Hazelton and Hinkle measure quality as a combination of the amount, type, and presentation of information (63). While admittedly a coarse measure, the authors use quantity—a simple word count—as a proxy for the amount of information attorneys relay to t

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