Write On!

JurisdictionWyoming,United States
CitationVol. 40 No. 4 Pg. 52
Publication year2017
Write On!
Vol. 40 No. 4 Pg. 52
Wyoming Bar Journal
August, 2017

Strategies Behind Quoting a Quote

Michael R. Smith University of Wyoming College of Law Laramie, Wyoming

A legal writer will often decide to quote a passage from a case only to realize that the passage in question is itself a quote from another source. If the writer is committed to quoting rather than paraphrasing in this situation[1], the writer must decide whether to (1) access, quote, and cite the original source of the passage, or (2) quote and cite the more recent source and indicate in the citation that the passage is a quote of a quote. There are three basic reasons why a legal writer may choose the latter approach of quoting a quote.

First, a writer may want to quote and cite the more recent authority for the very reason that it is more recent. As a matter of course, legal writers generally cite the most recent authority for a point of law. Even if the quoted passage came originally from a binding older case, it still makes strategic sense to quote and cite the more recent binding case that reaffirms the point of law.

We can see this strategy in Justice Hill's opinion in the recent Wyoming Supreme Court case of Gumpel v. Copperleaf Homeowners Association, Inc.:

The ambiguity which justifies examining extrinsic evidence must exist... in the language of the document itself. It cannot be found in subsequent events or conduct of the parties, matters which are extrinsic evidence. The suggestion that one should examine extrinsic evidence to determine whether extrinsic evidence may be examined is circuitous.

Wolter v. Equitable Res. Energy Co., Western Region, 979 P.2d 948, 952 (Wyo. 1999) (quoting State v. Pennzoil Company, 752 P.2d 975, 978 (Wyo. 1988)) (emphasis and ellipsis in original).[2]

In this passage, Justice Hill's chief authority for the block quote is the more recent Wyoming case of Wolter (1999), even though the quoted language originally came from the older Wyoming case of Pennzoil (1988). Although Justice Hill's citation sentence informs the reader of the original source of the quoted language, his writing reflects the strategic choice to emphasize the most recent expression of this point of law.

The second reason a writer may want to quote a quote from a more recent case rather than quote the original source is that the writer may plan to explore the more recent case in more detail in his or her document. For example, if Justice Hill in the...

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