08:14, May 03 395 0 abajournal.com

2018-05-03 08:14:08
Jumping into the debate on Gorsuch’s writing style, a Yale researcher runs a computer analysis

His opinions on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals began with facts that grabbed the reader and aimed at accessibility, the Wall Street Journal reported last year. But not everyone is a fan, the New York Times reports.

Detractors posted with the hashtag #GorsuchStyle, while a Slate headline proclaimed Gorsuch to be “a terrible writer.”

“Since his elevation to the Supreme Court,” the online magazine asserted, “Gorsuch’s prose has curdled into a glop of cutesy idioms, pointless metaphors, and garbled diction that’s exhausting to read and impossible to take seriously.”

Yale law student and doctoral candidate Nina Varsava took an analytic approach and used computer algorithms to study Gorsuch’s “stylistic proclivities.”

The study, based on Gorsuch’s majority opinions on the 10th Circuit, found his writing style was “remarkably informal and unconventional” compared to his peers on the federal appeals court, Varsava wrote in an abstract. “Moreover, Gorsuch’s opinions have a lot in common with fiction writing. They are often suspenseful, and they contain a broad range of vocabulary but limited legal jargon and citation.”

Varsava found that Gorsuch used Latin and other foreign words about half as often as his 10th Circuit colleagues, while he was more likely to use conjunctions and to begin sentences with short conjunctions.

Varsava tells the Times that Gorsuch’s opinions since joining the high court “feel a bit more heavy-handed” and “a little contrived.” As an example, she cites his alliterative opening line in his first majority opinion. “Disruptive dinnertime calls, downright deceit, and more besides drew Congress’s eye to the debt collection industry,” he wrote.

Several publications had praised the opinion when it was issued. But Varsava says the alliteration was “showy and jarring.” A more recent opinion by Gorsuch in a water dispute was more to her liking. It begins: “Will Rogers reportedly called the Rio Grande ‘the only river I ever saw that needed irrigation.’”