Garner's Guide to Making Briefs More Persuasive: Tip 12 - Avoid one sentence issue statements

Garner's Guide to Making Briefs More Persuasive: Tip 12 - Avoid one sentence issue statements

June 19, 2020

When writing an issue statement, don't try to do it with one sentence, and certainly don't begin with 'Whether' or another interrogative word.  An issue statement should follow a chronological order, and end with a pointed question.   Putting an issue statement in a single sentence may lead to the object becoming too distant from the verb. 

 

Garner gives this example of a bad issue statement:

 

Whether an order of the National Labor Relations Board directing the petitioner to pay back pay to an employee, who was discriminatorily laid off for union-organizing activity in violation of Section 8(a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act (Act), 29 U.S.C. § 158(a)(3), but only up to the date on which the petitioner discovered that the employee was an undocumented alien not authorized to be employed in the United States, is a proper exercise of the Board's authority  to remedy petitioner's violation of section 8(a)(3) of the Act? 

 

This statement is better:

 

The National Labor Relations Board ordered petitioner to pay back pay to an employee who was discriminatorily laid off for union organizing activity, but only up to the date when petitioner discovered that the employee was an undocumented alien not authorized to work in the United States.  Was this order a proper exercise of the Board's authority to remedy petitioner's violation?

 

The premise and the question should be in separate sentences.  

 

Don't use the under / does / when technique that is sometimes taught in law school.  

 - under a law to be applied

 - does asks the legal question

 - when certain facts occur.

 

Garner recommends avoiding an issue statement like this one:

"Under state law, does Bob Wilson have a claim for defamation when he is accused of committing a crime it was physically impossible for him to perform?"

 

 

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