Amendment 3 and the Legal Competency Police

These days it seems like a small army of political commentators puts an inordinate amount of effort into trolling the Utah District Court and Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals filings looking for more evidence supporting a predetermined conclusion — that the Utah Attorney General’s Office is incompetent and has a bad Amendment 3 case.

This is fine.  Everyone’s entitled to assess the arguments.  And this is an issue with wide reaching effects.

But an assessment of the arguments doesn’t seem to really be what this group is looking for.

Each time the AG’s office files a correcting brief or requests an extension of time to respond, the self-ordained legal competency police cluck, cluck and shake their heads back and forth: “Utah’s wasting taxpayer money on this?  They can’t even file their briefs on time.  And when they do, they’re full of typos.”

Newsflash folks:  Attorneys extend deadlines.  And typos creepinto written work product produced under the strain of tight deadlines, fatigue, numerous cases, and multiple contributors.  Or, in my case, typos just creep in.  🙂  This is simply a fact of legal life, not necessarily a commentary on the quality of an attorney or the legitimacy of their arguments.

There are many reasons an attorney might request the extension of a deadline.  Perhaps one or more of the team members working on the case is ill or on a vacation scheduled months in advance.  Perhaps a principal attorney on the case has another case scheduled for trial around the same time.  Perhaps he or she is simply overworked and wants additional time to give the case the attention it deserves.

Other attorneys understand these realities and have been on both sides of the proverbial deadline fence.  As a result, they agree to extensions of deadlines in all but the most unreasonable circumstances as a matter of professional courtesy, although the plaintiffs in the Judge Kimball case apparently oppose the state’s latest request for an extension (which is understandable given the issue involved).

I have, even in my short legal life, seen an awful lot of very polished, grammatically perfect, timely submitted…crap…for lack of a better word.

I have also seen work submitted at the last minute, or after multiple extensions, infected with a few typos, and maybe a grammatical error here or there, that really advanced a case and set out formidable arguments.

And, of course, I’ve seen the opposite as well.

But I’ve learned that in the practice of law — unlike on Facebook — I can’t claim that a grammatical error invalidates my opponent’s argument by exposing him or her as a fool, or conclude that a request for an extension of time to respond means my opponent’s either got nothing or can’t manage his or her schedule.

So, if you think the state’s got a loser of a case on Amendment 3, fine.  Argue the substance.  There’s plenty to argue, and we’re probably actually in agreement — in my mind, the state’s got the tougher position here, and I do not expect them to prevail.

But just stop with the silly deadline commentary and grammar policing, OK?

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