Advice for new law students, part V: avoid Monty Python “Yes it is!, No it isn’t!” argumentation

When engaging in legal analysis, avoid being conclusory.  As I tell my 1Ls, always follow the advice of Dorothy from the song Follow the Yellow-Brick Road (emphasis added):

If ever, oh ever, a Wiz there was the Wizard of Oz is one because
Because, because, because, because, because
of the wonderful things he does.

Always give the “because.”  If you state a conclusion (that the Wizard of Oz is a “Wiz”), make sure you give the reasons — i.e., state the issue, rule of law, analysis, and counter-analysis — that support the conclusion.  Thus, always make sure you’ve given the “because, because, because.”  Why is he a wizard?  Because of the wonderful things he does.

Of course, Dorothy’s analysis is still lacking.  She says the Wizard of Oz is a Wiz because of the wonderful things he does.  What are those things?  Explain.  Why are those things wonderful?  Because . . . .  And so on. So Dorothy shows what should be done: always give the “becauses.”

An illustration of what not to do can be found in Monty Python’s classic sketch Argument Clinic.  When I was in law school, one of my professors would mock students who engaged in what he called “Monty Python” arguing.  In the sketch, Michael Palin buys a five-minute argument.  John Cleese, in turn, simply contradicts everything Palin says.  Exasperted, Palin argues with Cleese over what is a proper argument:

Palin:  An argument is a connected series of statements to establish a definite proposition.

Cleese:   No it isn’t.

Palin:  Yes it is! It’s isn’t just contradiction.

Cleese:   Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.

Palin:  But it isn’t just saying “No it isn’t.”

Cleese:   Yes it is!

Palin:   No it isn’t!

Cleese:   Yes it is!

Palin:  Argument’s an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.

Cleese:  No it isn’t.

Advice part I (life and stress) here.
Advice part II (studying and attitudes) here.
Advice part III (back up your data) here.
Advice part IV (essay exams) here.
Advice part V (conclusory argumentation) here.
Advice part VI (incomplete argumentation) here.

Another Civil Procedure limerick

I’ve written previously about judges using limericks in their opinions.  Here’s another.  The ABA Journal notes that U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton found a plaintiff’s 465-page complaint to violate Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)‘s requirement that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement” of the plaintiff’s claim.  Noting Lord Polonius’ line in Hamlet that brevity is the soul of wit,” Judge Leighton stated that “[b]revity is also the soul of a pleading.”  He concluded with a limerick:

Plaintiff has a great deal to say,
But it seems he skipped Rule 8(a),
His Complaint is too long,
Which renders it wrong,
Please re-write and re-file today.

Hat tip to my St. Thomas colleague Fred Light for sending this to me.

A Civil Procedure limerick

Continuing this week’s Civil Procedure and golf themes, a judge from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissed a third-party complaint because it was filed by the defendants too late and without court permission.  Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 14 states that a defending party filing a third-party complaint “must, by motion, obtain the court’s leave if it files the third-party complaint more than 10 days after serving its original answer.”  Here, the defendants filed their third-party complaint more than five months after they answered, and without first seeking leave of court.

The defendants’ names? Limerick Golf Club, Inc. and Limerick Golf Club Estates, Inc. (collectively, “Limerick”).  Concluding that Limerick didn’t justify the late filing, Judge Berle M. Schiller dismissed their third-party complaint.  Stating that Limerick’s “sub-par performance occurred in the pleading stage of this case and not on the golf course,” the court closed with a rhyme:

With arguments hard to resist,
The movant correctly insists,
His joinder was tardy,
And so the third party
Complaint is hereby dismissed.

Hat tip to for the story and where you can find additional details on the suit.  Court’s opinion here.

Musings on the Shatman

I have to admit that I’m an unabashed Star Trek fan. (Not a surprise, I suppose.) I recently read William Shatner’s new book, Up Till Now: The Autobiography (co-written with David Fisher). I highly recommend it. It’s well-written, informative, and witty. Shatner alternates between self-effacing charm, unabashed pomposity, and a gleeful hawking of goods available through his website. At times, the book is poignant, such as when Shatner recounts early career disappointments, the break-ups of multiple marriages, and especially the tragic accidental death of his third wife, Nerine.

Among other things, the book details Shatner’s efforts at being a recording artist. In his records, Shatner doesn’t really sing; instead he speaks the words dramatically. His recent recording effort, Has Been, is actually very good and includes musical talents such as Joe Jackson, Adrian Belew, and Henry Rollins. It was well-received by reviewers. (Over 200 readers on gave it on average 4.5 stars out of 5.)

But as Shatner’s book recounts, his earlier musical efforts were not well-received, such as his infamous cover of Rocket Man at the 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards. Shatner also discusses his cover of The Beatles’ Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, which I do think is pretty darn awful.

Below is a wonderful YouTube parody mashing together Shatner’s cover of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds with images to gently mock Shatner, Star Trek, and The Beatles (as well as Lucy Ricardo and Lucy Van Pelt):