07 August 2008

A Dark and Stormy Early Afternoon

The 2008 "Winners" of the Bulwer-Lytton Contest have been announced. It's a particularly disappointing set of entries this year... at least in terms of absolute badness. I've been forced to suffer through much worse examples in legal writing recently.

For example, compare this runner-up in "historical fiction":

Our tale takes place one century before the reign of Alboin, the Lombard king who would one day conquer most of Italy and who would end up being murdered by his own wife (quite rightfully, I'd say, since Alboin made a drinking cup out of her daddy's skull and forced her to drink from it), when our little Sonnebert was seven years old.

to this runner-up (at least arguably "historical fiction") from a couple of months ago:

Today, for the first time in our Nation’s history, the Court confers a constitutional right to habeas corpus on alien enemies detained abroad by our military forces in the course of an ongoing war. The Chief Justice's dissent, which I join, shows that the procedures prescribed by Congress in the Detainee Treatment Act provide the essential protections that habeas corpus guarantees; there has thus been no suspension of the writ, and no basis exists for judicial intervention beyond what the Act allows. My problem with today's opinion is more fundamental still: The writ of habeas corpus does not, and never has, run in favor of aliens abroad; the Suspension Clause thus has no application, and the Court's intervention in this military matter is entirely ultra vires.

Bouemediene v. Bush, No. 06–1195 (12 Jun 2008), slip op. at 110 (Scalia, J., dissenting). It's not just bad history; unusually for Scalia, it's also bad writing.

But this tale of bad writing would be incomplete without this "dishonorable mention" and its attitude:

There are certain people in the world who emanate an aura of well being — they radiate sunshine, light up a room, bring out the best in others, and fill your half empty glass to overflowing — yes it was these very people, thought Karl, as he sharpened his mirror-finished guthook knife, who were top of his list.

Cf. District of Columbia v. Heller, No. 07–290 (26 Jun 2008).