Blame the Machines

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Civil Procedure was my favorite class of my first year in law school, primarily because my professor found the cases in the textbook far less interesting than the many stories he had accumulated over the years. (When it came time to study for the bar exam, I found myself less enamored of that particular teaching style.)

One thing that stuck with me from that class was my professor's theory that modern mass tort litigation was made possible by - and would not have occured without - the invention of the photocopier. Unless you can make many, many copies of documents for many, many plaintiffs and their lawyers, litigating a mass disaster is effectively impossible.

I was reminded of this theory by the news on Friday that the Eleventh Circuit had issued a 304-page opinion striking down the individual mandate portion of the health care law. I have to wonder if the opinion would have been as long in the days when opinions were handwritten and laboriously typeset. Sure, long publications existed long before word processors, and there were plenty of long opinions. The Supreme Court's 1856 decision in Dred Scott, for example, clocks in at 240 pages of U.S. Reports.

But generally speaking, decisions were shorter before the days of click, cut, paste....

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