How NOT to Write an Effective Court Motion

Sometime during those three long years you spent in law school, you probably absorbed some tips on writing an effective court motion. This woman didn’t get that memo. Her motion to a United States Federal District Court is a primer on how not to write an effective court motion.

Tamah Jada Clark has a very distinctive voice in her legal pleadings. One you don’t hear every day. Her nine-page Motion “To F*ck This Court And Everything that it Stands For” is guaranteed to make experienced lawyers cringe or burst out laughing.

Motion to F*ck This Court and Everything that it Stands ForSam Glover, over at Lawyerist.com and @SarahJeong on Twitter found this gem on PACER. Besides being a welcome relief to the tedium of legal writing, Ms. Clark’s diatribe gives us some clear examples of how NOT to write an effective motion.

Forget to Tell The Judge What You Want

Clark’s motion appears to be either a motion for reconsideration or a motion to reinstate her case. But she never actually says what she wants the judge to do, legally speaking. (Some of her personal attacks on the judge are not even physically possible, let alone appropriate legal remedies.)

Learn from Ms. Clark. Be very clear what legal remedy you are seeking. Include it in the title, opening paragraph, and prayer for relief. Add a cite to the legal basis for your relief. That way it will be easy for your judge to do what you are asking him or her to do.

Include Irrelevant Facts and Argument

Clark’s inclusion of several pages, and a lengthy exhibit article, explaining why the federal government does not have jurisdiction over citizens of the state of Florida. Assuming that this is a motion asking the court to continue her case, this jurisdiction argument is not just irrelevant, but counter-productive.

Judges are busy people. Their dockets are only getting bigger, which means they have less time to dig through your motions and find the relevant parts. Don’t waste their time. Keep your motion targeted on the relief you want, cutting anything that isn’t directly relevant. Save your judge time and he or she will be more likely to grant your request.

Disrespect the Judge and the System

One thing is abundantly clear from Ms. Clark’s motion. She does not respect the judge, the court, or the American legal system. Her demonstrated vitriol for the system was certain to further estrange the judge to her cause and guarantee she would not get the relief she requested.

Judges and lawyers disagree, often vehemently. We are human, and we have human emotional reactions. But an effective motion separates emotion from the legal process. By respecting the court and using decorum, you demonstrate that even though you disagree, you are a professional. And you are willing to work within the system. If you show that you are willing to work with the judge, the judge will be more willing to work with you – on this case and in the future.

Part of professional legal practice is writing an effective court motion. Pleadings like Ms. Clark’s Motion “To F*ck This Court And Everything that it Stands For” remind us why we invested more than “1 month to study the history of the world and to learn the history and inner workings of American jurisprudence, literally.”

Lisa Schmidt is a writer with Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She provides outsourced legal writing services and overflow writing for solo attorneys and small firms. If you need someone to write motions and briefs for your firm, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.

 

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