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Judge Boasberg and the art of judicial writing

  • McClatchy Washington Bureau
  • Published Friday, June 13, 2014, at 3 p.m.

A dash of wit and and a bit of word-play can ease the swallowing of a judicial opinion.

With that in mind, check out how U.S. District Judge James Boasberg starts a new opinion:

“Florence Nightingale once said,” Boasberg wrote, “that ‘nursing is an art.’ In this case, the Government contends that employees of one D.C. healthcare provider were better schooled in the art of fraud than the art of nursing.”

That’s artfully droll. It’s not funny, exactly, but it amuses, and it thereby invites the reader in.

Judge Boasberg then uses a light colloquial touch in elaborating on the case, writing the healthcare provider “developed a habit of cooking the books: overbilling for hours not worked, charging the District for clients it did not service, and forging physician signatures on its paperwork.”

Suits & Sentences appreciates the conversational tone of “cooking the books.” In a similar vein, Judge Boasberg flavors the rest of the opinion with little touches like “quite grim” and “win the day.” All in all, some nicely accessible writing.

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