Although Section 1983/parent rights suits are something of a subspecialty of mine, there is no freaking way I'm reading Green v. Camreta, 06-35333 (9th Cir. Dec. 10. 2009) (here). It's 43 pages. There is no way in the world a parental rights case should be so lengthy. Why so long?
Judge Berzon "authored" the opinion - which means one of her law clerks wrote it. Judge Berzon gets the Yalies. Yalies, when writing, are more interested in self-indulgence than reader edification. [This does not apply to you, Will B. - Mike.] The law clerk had a chance to publish a law review article in the F.3d. And thus we're stuck with it.
Number One Rule of writing: Write for your readers, not for yourself. Unless you're Tiger Woods, no one wants to read your diary. No one cares about your innermost thoughts. Don't believe me? Start a biographical, self-indulgent blog. See how many readers you get. The marketplace of readers is ruthless.
A good judicial opinion should clearly state the legally-operative facts; state the rule; apply the rule; and reach a conclusion. The opinion should be written with authority. No mealy-mouthed language, or endless "on the other hands."
The "on one hand, on the other hand" stuff is for law review articles - where not offending the reader is more important than taking a stand.