Being an appellate lawyer is having the luxury (generally speaking) of time to delve into the slightest nuances in the case law in vigorous detail. And one of the side benefits of reading so many cases is encounters with colorful dissents. As lawyers know, there's nothing like bitterness to give a fine edge to judicial opinions. Read any of Justice Scalia's dissents and you immediately become aware of being in the presence of a great writer, not just legal writer. You also cannot help but wonder which parts got left on the cutting room floor as just a little too inflammatory.

One of the greatest examples of this art form is Justice Scalia's dissent in Dickerson v. Arizona, 530 U.S. 428 (2004). Some snippets to whet your appetite:

"Those to whom judicial decisions are an unconnected series of judgments that produce either favored or disfavored results will doubtless greet today's decision as a paragon of moderation, since it declines to overrule Miranda v. Arizona . . . Those who understand the judicial process will appreciate that today's decision is not a reaffirmation of Miranda, but a radical revision of the most significant element of Miranda . . ."

"And so, to justify today's agreed-upon result, the Court must adopt a significant new, if not entirely comprehensible, principle of constitutional law."

"Today's judgment converts Miranda from a milestone of judicial overreaching into the very Cheops' Pyramid (or perhaps the Sphinx would be a better analogue) of judicial arrogance."


Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski is no slouch either when it comes to pen as sword. Just a week ago Judge Kozinski dissented from the denial of a petition for rehearing en banc in United States of America v. Pineda-Moreno, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 16708. Here's a taste:

"Having previously decimated the protections the Fourth Amendment accords to the home itself . . . our court now proceeds to dismantle the zone of privacy we enjoy in the home's curtilage and in public."

Oh, the bitterness! And that's just the opening sentence! There's more, but why spoil it for you?

Word wars. Enjoy.