This article on current trends in briefing reports an empirical study of the use of parentheticals in federal appellate court briefs submitted between February 1, 2011, and July 31, 2011. The study was designed to answer this question: How are parentheticals currently used for rhetorical purposes in appellate briefs to explain a synthesis of authorities? My hypothesis entering the study was that parentheticals currently are used beyond a simple informational function in citation forms for four rhetorical purposes: (1) to quote and highlight portions of authorities ("quotation" function), (2) to explain and illustrate the principles induced from a synthesis of authorities ("explanatory synthesis" function), (3) to explain and illustrate the effect and operation of public policies underlying the law in multiple authorities ("public-policy synthesis" function), and (4) to explain and illustrate the narratives of success or failure among multiple cases in which the law was applied to produce a concrete outcome ("narrative synthesis" function). These uses of parentheticals were to be compared with other methods of communication of information about multiple authorities in legal analysis, specifically case-to-case analogical reasoning and footnoting.

The results of the study indicate that parentheticals are used regularly in federal appellate briefs for each of the four functions introduced above--quotation, explanatory synthesis, public-policy synthesis, and narrative synthesis--and that the latter two, more-particularized synthesis functions, which are subsets of the more general category of explanatory synthesis, are utilized at similar rates compared to each other. One of the more notable findings is that every category of parenthetical usage for synthesis is being used in briefs in each federal appellate court and in the United States Supreme Court at a significantly higher rate in terms of numbers of instances of usage than the alternative method of explanation, which is textual, case-to-case analogical reasoning. In comparison, the practice of footnoting in briefs also is thriving in each federal court of appeals and in the United States Supreme Court, and exceeds the rate of use of case-to-case analogical reasoning in each jurisdiction, but footnoting lags behind the use of parentheticals for quotation and explanatory synthesis in each jurisdiction

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Michael D. Murray, The Promise of Parentheticals: An Empirical Study of the Use of Parentheticals in Federal Appellate Briefs, 10 Legal Comm. & Rhetoric: JALWD 229-263 (2013).



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