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Research Proposal

The Authorship of Judicial Decisions

Douglas G. Lichtman

Request for Help:
Several people at the Yale Law School are interested in considering the colloborative process of judicial opinion-writing. The suspicion is that clerks (and, to a lesser extent, lawyers) are playing an ever more important role in the drafting of court decisions, and that their contributions are having an impact not only on the style of court opinions, but also on the substance of the decisions themselves.

The group has already begun amassing the anecdotal evidence from judges and former clerks; and they also have started to examine the linguistic evidence by comparing court documents, clerk writing samples, and judge writing samples with opinions “authored” under the judges’ names. However, they have no formal training in stylistics. They would greatly appreciate some assistance from a linguisitics expert (or even a graduate student with interest in this area) who might help them to more rigorously explore this question. According to project leader Douglas G. Lichtman, “Any contribution – from informal guidance to proposed co-authorship – would be most welcome.”

For more information, please contact Douglas G. Lichtman.