I happened upon this interesting dissent in my research recently.  If you can forgive the biting tone (note the judge’s befitting name), I think the minimalist technique is pretty effective.  It’s not bogged down with preachy legalese.  It doesn’t pontificate or soliloquize. It’s short and (not so) sweet.  Here it is, from Ex parte Clay, 675 S.W.2d 765, 768 (Tex. Crim. App.1984):

Onion, Presiding Judge, Dissenting.

I dissented in Ex parte McWilliams, 634 S.W.2d 815 (Tex. Crim. App. 1982). I dissent again. I simply call attention to the unrealistic and laughable statements of the majority:

“It is important to note that the ‘carving doctrine’ was abandoned primarily because it encouraged crime … The abandonment of the ‘carving doctrine’ overcame an aspect of the criminal trial that substantially impaired its truth-finding function.”


Rarely do I have the pleasure of seeing judges describe their distinguished colleagues’ reasoning as “laughable” (forgive me for being entertained).  Regardless of whether you agree with the dissent or the majority, I think this pithy opinion offers good evidence of why less is more.  Note the very short sentences and short paragraph.  In fact, most of the “argument” commandeers (and makes a mockery of) the majority’s own words. The grand finale is a one-word sarcastic scoff.  No need for a conclusion sentence.

Again, the tone is another matter and a different debate.  But after reading this dissent, it’s hard to avoid at least being tempted to second guess the majority.  So in that sense, perhaps this dissent succeeds in its rhetorical goal.  If you want to check out the full opinion, here it is on Leagle.com.