The Bar News

Legal-writing tip: Citations in footnotes

You must always follow  court rules for citation of authority, but consider this idea: To increase readability, place your citations in footnotes instead of in the text of your brief or memorandum. Do not use footnotes for any other purpose.  Why make your reader jump over nonsubstantive interruptions?  (Bryan A. Garner is the moving force behind this idea. Count me in on that crusade.) I know that this is not how the Illinois appellate courts write their opinions, and Illinois Supreme Court Rule 341(a) states that “Footnotes are discouraged, but, if used, may be single-spaced.” But I think that this Rule is addressing substantive (“talking”) footnotes as opposed to citation to authority. Which of these two identical opinions are more readable? The first puts citations in text and the second in footnotes. We hold that review of a grant of a directed verdict is de novo. City of Mattoon v. Mentzer, 282 Ill. App. 3d 628, 633, 668 N.E.2d 601 (1996). While we recognize that there is authority to the contrary in Illinois (Boatmen's Bank v. Dowell, 208 Ill. App. 3d 994, 1001, 567 N.E.2d 739 (1991); Johnson v. National Supermarkets, Inc., 257 Ill. App. 3d 1011, 1015, 630 N.E.2d 934 (1994); Cohan v. Garretson, 282 Ill. App. 3d 248, 256, 667 N.E.2d 1325 (1996); NWI International, Inc. v. Edgewood Bank, 291 Ill. App. 3d 247, 261, 684 N.E.2d 401 (1997)), we nevertheless find that de novo review is proper because the standard of review on appeal should be the same as that applied by the trial court, which, as City of Mattoon states: "fits the definition of de novo: '[a]new; afresh; a second time.'" (Emphasis in original). City of Mattoon, 282 Ill. App. 3d at 633. Although defendants argue that Mattoon is not controlling because it is a Fourth District case, our research has revealed First District case law in which the de novo standard of review has been applied to directed verdicts. Green v. Jackson, 289 Ill. App. 3d 1001, 682 N.E.2d 409 (1997); Dunlap v. Alcuin Montessori School, 298 Ill. App. 3d 329, 698 N.E.2d 574 (1998); Los Amigos Supermarket, Inc. v. Metro Bank & Trust Co., 306 Ill. App. 3d 115, 713 N.E.2d 686 (1999). This is the same text with all of the citations in footnotes: We hold that review of a grant of a directed verdict is de novo. While we recognize that there is authority to the contrary in Illinois, we nevertheless find that de novo review is proper because the standard of review on appeal should be the same as that applied by the trial court, which, as City of Mattoon states: "fits the definition of de novo: '[a]new; afresh; a second time.'" (Emphasis in original). Although defendants argue that Mattoon is not controlling because it is a Fourth District case, our research has revealed First District case law in which the de novo standard of review has been applied to directed verdicts. (Citations omitted for this post but would be in footnotes at the bottom of the page in 10-point type.)
Posted on November 6, 2009 by James R. Covington
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