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Exercises from LEGAL WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH, Bryan A. Garner

§ 23. Summarize. Don't overparticularize.

Exercises

Basic

Rewrite the following passage to improve the story line by omitting needless details:

On September 25, 1997, in a Texas federal district court, R&B Music sought injunctive relief against the McCoys to prevent them from any further use or disclosure of R&B's trade secrets. On September 26, 1997, the Texas court issued an order restraining the McCoys from using or disclosing certain R&B property and proprietary information. On September 26, 1997, the court set an evidentiary hearing for Tuesday, October 7, 1997, on R&B's preliminary-injunction motion.
          On October 6, 1997, the McCoys moved to dismiss for an alleged lack of venue and personal jurisdiction. Alternatively, they asked the court to transfer the case to an Illinois federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 1404 or § 1406.
          On October 7, 1997, when the parties arrived for the injunction hearing, the Texas court indicated an intent to hear testimony and rule on the McCoys' dismissal or transfer motion, to which R&B had been given no chance to respond. The testimony established that both of the McCoys had had significant contacts in Texas for the past eight years--including daily phone calls and faxes to and from R&B; their three visits to R&B's Texas headquarters; and their work in negotiating R&B contracts with Texas musicians.
          On October 8, 1997, the Texas court transferred the case to this Court, noting that the transfer was for the reasons stated on the record. As the October 7, 1997 transcript reveals, the Texas court decided that while it has personal jurisdiction over John McCoy, it lacked personal jurisdiction over Kate McCoy. According to the court, the case should be transferred because "to accord relief to R&B down here while leaving the Illinois court to deal with Kate McCoy simply would not provide an effective situation" for any of the parties. The judge did not indicate which statutory section governed the transfer.
          On October 8, 1997, in the same order, the Texas court further ruled that its September 26, 1997 order restricting both John and Kate McCoy from using or disclosing R&B's trade secrets would remain in effect until further orders of the Illinois court. On October 13, 1997, R&B filed the present supplemental motion for a preliminary injunction, asking this Court to extend and expand the injunctive relief already granted by the Texas court.

Intermediate

Rewrite the following passage to prune the overparticularized facts and to improve the story line. The passage comes from an appellant's brief--specifically from a section entitled "Nature of the Case and Material Proceedings in the Lower Courts," just after the preliminary statement.

On December 26, 1999, the Division of Child Support Enforcement ("DCSE") issued a Mandatory Withholding of Earnings Order directing the Social Security Administration to deduct $200.00 per month for current child support and $100.00 per month for payment on child-support arrears. On June 18, 2000, Skelton filed a Motion to Quash the Mandatory Withholding of Earnings Order with the Buchanan County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. In the pleading, Skelton requested that the withholding order of the Division be reduced and that he be given credit against arrears for the amount of social-security benefits received by the children, and that the court recalculate the arrears. Hearings on the Motion to Quash in Buchanan County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court were held on September 11, 2000, and October 13, 2000. At the September 11, 2000 hearing, the court entered a temporary order requiring $28.50 per month toward current support and requiring $71.50 per month toward the arrears. The Motion to Quash was treated as a Motion for Reduction. The court took the issue of arrears under advisement and directed that the counsel for the parties prepare briefs on the issue concerning credit for a lump-sum social-security payment. The child support was set by using the appropriate code provisions, and neither party objected to the child-support award or the arrears payment.
          On October 13, 2000, the Buchanan County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court denied the Motion to Quash and ruled that "credit for social-security payments made to the children as to debt owed to the Division is denied. The Court declined to exercise equitable relief for Mr. Skelton (Appellee) as to any debt owed to custodial parent. Appeal Noted in open court, so no bond is required for appeal."
          This matter was subsequently appealed and tried de novo in the Circuit Court of Buchanan County. At the circuit-court level, the court denied the Division's request for an appeal bond and ruled that Skelton should receive credit for the $7,086.10 lump-sum social-security benefits paid on behalf of the children of Mr. Skelton. This reduced the child-support arrears from $14,017.14 to $6,931.04. At the date of the circuit-court hearing, all the children were over the age of 18.
          The circuit court was reminded that on October 14, 1995, Skelton was found guilty of contempt by the Buchanan County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court and was advised "to immediately notify the court of any change in employment, layoff, reduction in wages or hours worked." The court further warned that "no further delinquency would be tolerated and any change in circumstances must be followed up with a petition to decrease, or contempt sanctions will be imposed."

Advanced

Find a passage in which too much detail impedes the progress of the writer's thoughts. If you're part of a writing group or class, be prepared to discuss why you think the detail is excessive and how you might prune it.


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© 2001, Bryan A. Garner

These exercises appear in Bryan A. Garner's Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text with Exercises, published by The University of Chicago Press and available at bookstores and on the Web at www.press.uchicago.edu.


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