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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Longest Judicial Opinions

Since starting law school over three years ago, I have occasionally wondered how long the longest judicial opinion is. While I have already blogged about the world's longest constitution, the length and origin of the longest judicial opinion has remained a mystery to me.

But this weekend, I decided to finally look into the issue -- and I found that somebody has already done the work at finding the longest opinion. The Trial Warrior blog has this 2012 post on the longest judgments in the world. Only one of the top seven judgments originates in the United States, and it ranks as sixth on the list. While all of the opinions on the list are hefty, the top three are in a class all their own.

The longest judicial opinion to originate in the United States appears to be the the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia's opinion in McConnell v. FEC. There, three judges issued a per curiam opinion followed by their individual opinions. The entire ruling takes up 743 pages.

But the longest opinion in the United States does not even come close to the longest opinion in the world. In 2010, the Allahabad High Court released an 8,000 page opinion in the long-running Ayodhya dispute. The dispute centered on the ownership of a plot of land with religious significance to a variety of parties, and had been in the courts for 60 years before the High Court ruling.

Commentators have criticized the United States Supreme Court for its increasingly lengthy rulings. But the Court has a long way to go if it wants to break into the ranks of the longest opinions in the world.

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