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Abridging/Condensing a Court Case ……….Instructions ……….When you engage in this assignment, think of it as a variation on the phenomenon of “abridged books.” Try to reduce the length of the selected court case to approximately one-third of its current length. As is true for abridged books, the final product should be a continuous narrative, and not a series of comments lifted from the original. ………….For sure, there is value in trying to keep some of the literal verbiage. But you probably have to paraphrase most of it if you want to cut two-thirds out. Indeed, for the purpose of this assignment, you do not need to specifically indicate what are literal quotes. Consider yourself the “ghost writer” of the judge whose decision you are abridging; you are helping the judge to cut down his/her own paper, and the judge will later put his/her own name on top – hence there is no need to add quotation marks. So the person who next reads your finished product should think (s)he is actually reading a verdict written by the judge in the case. In other words, if the judge in your case used first person, then you use first person as well. …………..At times, you may be able to slash whole paragraphs or even whole sections if they concern a (technical) detail. More often, it will be better to reduce in length each section so that each section’s main ideas are represented in the abridged version. When slashing whole sentences or even paragraphs, be careful that you do not end up with references to previous-but-now-slashed-sentences. For example: If the sentence you retained says something like “these cases show” it should be clear what “these” refers back to. Or if the sentence you retained starts with “However,…” it needs to remain clear to what that sentence stands in opposition. …………….When you abridge the judge’s opinion, write for an audience of educated lay people (for example, fellow health care professionals in the hospital you work at, or other graduate students).
It is important that your readers gain a legally correct understanding of the original full-length opinion, but not all legal subtleties need to be included. One way to decide what can be left out is to ask yourself what the judge who have skipped had (s)he presented his/her verdict to a lay audience instead. In general, use modern, common language that is easily understood and replace as much as possible legalese. ……….The main purpose of this exercise is to invite you to study one court case very carefully and to find out what is the principal line of argumentation, and what is elaboration, embellishment, maybe even digression. Every experienced author knows that it is very difficult and painful to significantly reduce one’s own paper down to 75% of its original length, let alone 33%. But it should be a bit easier to “butcher” the paper of somebody else. ……….Please do not spend hours trying to cut 100 more words from the paper so as to reach the 33% goal. You may have to engage in that kind of tedious exercise in the future if you submit an article to a journal and its editor reminds you that your paper exceeds the journal’s stated word limit. But the goal for this exercise is not primarily a linguistic one – though it is that as well. Rather, it is to get you to really engage this one court case, in preparation for your own development of a legal argument later in the course. …………Since you are tasked to write this abridged version for an audience of educated lay people, you may significantly reduce the number of in-text citations. Consider retaining the most important citations/references, and specifically those from which you quote. You may want to move citations to footnotes or endnotes. This is of course not what the APA style requires, but having lengthy citations inside the text makes it very difficult to read. And the whole point of the exercise is to create a text that a lay audience can and will read. Also, if you move the citations to footnotes or endnotes, feel free to exclude the words in those notes from the overall word count, so that should help with the abridgment. ……….If a particular earlier court case is explicitly referenced, at least a standard short version should be retained (e.g. Roe v Wade) and if some scholarly publication is referenced and the reference is retained in the abridged version, a standard APA style in-text citation (e.g., Robertson, 1992) and bibliographic reference would be prudent (or something very similar) so that the reader can find back the original. ………Topic: Historic US Supreme Court decision about sterilization, also included (in part) in the Mennikoff textbook 1942 Supreme Court decision in Skinner v Oklahoma ……….1. Abridge the full court decision (i.e., all majority/minority opinions) (3672 words in the original; cut back to about 1250 words)