In most law schools, future lawyers learn the law primarily by reading cases. Even the “textbooks” handed out at law schools are more accurately called casebooks. Because of this, we are taught to learn by reading cases and discussing them. This may not be the best system, but it has been how lawyers are trained for the better part of the last century.
Reading cases has never been the primary way I learn the law. There are more effective and efficient ways to learn new practice areas or to keep up with developments in fields that I already know well. Between continuing legal education seminars, professional journals, and legal blogs, it is easier and easier for an attorney to stay up-to-date on the law without ever reading a case. But I still can’t break the habit. I read cases every day just for the purpose of staying informed.
This morning, I found myself reading Colon v. State, a Connecticut Appellate Court decision released online two days ago, but not technically “officially released” until next Tuesday. I guess the courts can’t acknowledge the internet or that you don’t need a hard copy of a case to read it anymore. As they sang in Fiddler on the Roof, “Traditioooooooon! Tradition! Tradition!”
There’s some irony in making that connection with Colon. The case is about not letting trivial technicalities stop a case from proceeding. The plaintiff forgot to include an amount in dispute or to include that amount on a separate page. The plaintiff’s lawyer ignored or forgot the rules and the trial court dismissed the case for that error. But the law was changed in 1976 to say that this was no longer a jurisdictional requirement. In many ways, this case is the anti-Iqbal, a U.S. Supreme Court I wrote about in the Connecticut Law Tribune in 2009. Unlike in federal court, nobody is writing any obituaries for notice pleading in Connecticut state court. That’s a good thing.
Now if we only get our state courts to be as progressive with their publications rules…