South Carolina v. Katzenbach

(1966)

Audience

There is an art to writing a Supreme Court opinion. Judicial opinions have a standard structure and purpose that dictate what goes into an opinion—and what gets left out. Opinions are written to achieve very specific goals. They have to lay out in detail the unique situation underlying the legal dispute; they have to set out the key legal and constitutional questions raised by the case and then provide answers to these questions; and, finally, they have to explain why the justices ruled as they did and make clear the scope and extent of their rulings. In a very real sense, a justice writing a Supreme Court opinion is responsible to several constituencies. There are the litigants in the case, whose primary focus is winning and losing. Then there are the judges from whence the case originated, who need to be informed of their errors. Lower court judges hearing similar cases make up a third group, in need of a clear precedent regarding the meaning of a law or...

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Chief justice Earl Warren (Library of Congress)

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