“Brevity is the soul of wit.” ― William Shakespeare
The questions presented page is assuredly the most important element of a Supreme Court petition. Justices 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.”
Lengthy questions 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 either granted cert. or is hearing oral argument this term. Note the brevity therein:
McCoy v. Louisiana; No. 16-8255
Is it unconstitutional for defense counsel to concede an accused’s guilt over the accused’s express objection?
Class v. United States; No. 16-424
Whether a guilty plea inherently waives a defendant’s right to challenge the constitutionality of his statute of conviction.
Jesner v. Arab Bank, PLC; No. 16-499
Whether the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, categorically forecloses corporate liability.
Hays, KS v. Vogt; No. 16-1495
Whether the Fifth Amendment is violated when statements are used at a probable cause hearing but not at a criminal trial.
Cyan Inc. v. Beaver County Employees Retirement Fund; No. 15-1439
Whether state courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over covered class actions that allege only ’33 Act claims.
Carpenter v. United States; 14-1572
Whether the warrantless seizure and search of historical cell phone records revealing the location and movements of a cell phone user over the course of 127 days is permitted by the Fourth Amendment.
Ortiz v. United States; No. 16-1423
Whether Judge Mitchell’s service on the CMCR disqualified him from continuing to serve on the AFCCA under 10 U.S.C. § 973(b)(2)(A)(ii).
Cox v. United States; No. 16-1017
Whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding that Petitioner’s claims were moot.
Janus v. American Federation; No. 16-1466
Should Abood be overruled and public sector agency fee arrangements declared unconstitutional under the First Amendment?
Sessions v. Dimaya; No. 15-1498
Whether 18 U.S.C. § 16(b), as incorporated into the Immigration and Nationality Act’s provisions governing an alien’s removal from the United States, is unconstitutionally vague.