University of Pittsburgh

Arthur Hellman on D.C. Circuit Judge’s Declaring ‘War’ on Acronyms

Publish Date/Time: 
December 6, 2012

Professor Arthur Hellman commented on Senior Judge Lawrence Silberman’s expression of frustration with attorneys’ constant use of acronyms in their briefs. Silberman, a District of Columbia Circuit judge, believes lawyers primarily use acronyms to limit word count per court rules, and he wants the practice to stop. Twice this year, Silberman has chided attorneys in his courtroom for their reliance on acronyms, even including in one opinion that the court’s handbook strongly urges parties to limit the use of acronyms, especially those that “are not widely known.” Hellman agrees that judges should occasionally “police the lawyers” over acronym use. “Often the lawyers are specialists, and the acronyms are meaningful to them, so they don't even realize how obfuscatory they seem to the rest of the world,” he said.


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