Legal Writing

Do They Teach Proofreading at Yale?

If the Kansas Secretary of State gets an official portrait, Kobach's should be based on this picture (image credit: Bloomberg).

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has appeared here twice before, but he’s never had top billing. See Assorted Stupidity #111” (Mar. 13, 2018) (in fourth paragraph noting that judge told Kobach “[t]hat’s not how trials are conducted”); “Kansas Bill Would Require Governor to Be an Adult Human” (Feb. 14, 2018) (in final paragraph containing the phrases “thoroughly awful,” “bogus,” and “embarrass even the Trump Administration”). Now, he has earned his own post.

To cap off what has been a train wreck of a case for Kobach, who is representing the state in a lawsuit challenging a state voter-ID law, who has no idea what to do in court, and who was held in contempt not too long ago, his legal team filed their proposed conclusions of law on Tuesday without fully proofreading the document. Well, it’s hard to catch every last typo, I understand that. But you really should be able to catch, for example, a note in all caps that suggests one of your arguments is PROBABLY NOT WORTH ARGUING:

Yikes.

As you can see, that was not the only mistake on these two pages, but it was by far the most embarrassing. The notation that they need a “CITE” for the first proposition is something that’s not too unusual (in draft documents). The entirely blank paragraph five may have contained an argument that was even less worth arguing than the one before it, but that’s just speculation on my part. A much less obvious error is citing a Third Circuit case to a federal judge who sits in the Tenth Circuit, although they should have cited U.S. Supreme Court cases for both those points anyway. Any one or possibly two of those would be understandable, given the length of the document. But leaving the note PROBABLY NOT WORTH ARGUING next to one of your arguments? Well, it’s almost like somebody just stopped paying attention.

Kobach’s team has since filed a corrected version of the document, but the ABA Journal (and many, many other sources) have preserved the uncorrected one. Unsurprisingly, the corrected document does not argue that Plaintiffs Fish, Bucci and the League of Women Voters lack standing.