“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Mark Twain.

The questions presented page is unquestionably the most important page in a Supreme Court petition.  Justices and law clerks can reject an entire case based on review of the questions alone.  Rule 14.1 provides that they should be “expressed concisely in relation to the circumstances of the case, without unnecessary detail.  The questions should be short and should not be argumentative or repetitive.”

qLengthy questions often provide extraneous detail and additional work for an already overburdened court staff.  “

[T]his amounts to an admonition to ban all ‘unnecessary’ words or details from the question, leaving it concise, understandable, and easily readable.”  Supreme Court Practice – 9th ed., Eugene Gressman, et al.

Here’s a sampling of 10 concise questions upon which the Supreme Court granted certiorari over the past three terms.  Note the brevity therein.

12-398; Assoc. for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc.

  • Are human genes patentable?

12-417; Sandifer v. United States Steel Corp.

  • What constitutes “changing clothes” within the meaning of section 203(o)?

12-144; Hollingsworth v. Perry

  • Whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

11-9335; Alleyne v. United States

  • Whether this Court’s decision in Harris v. United States, 536 U.S. 545 (2002), should be overruled.

11-820; Chaidez v. United States

  • [W]hether Padilla applies to persons whose convictions became final before its announcement.

12-10882; Hall v. Florida

  • Whether the Florida scheme for identifying mentally retarded defendants in capital cases violates Atkins v. Virginia.

13-433; Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk

  • [W]hether time spent in security screenings is compensable under the FLSA, as amended by the Portal-to-Portal Act.

12-207; Maryland v. King

  • Does the Fourth Amendment allow the States to collect and analyze DNA from people arrested and charged with serious crimes?

11-218; Tibbals v. Carter

  • Do capital prisoners possess a “right to competence” in federal habeas proceedings under Rees v. Peyton, 384 U.S. 312 (1966)?

12-729; Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life Insurance

  • When should a statute of limitations accrue for judicial review of an ERISA disability adverse benefit determination?