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I want to refer to an assertion that is part of the written majority opinion in a particular case, put forth by the US Supreme Court's majority for that case.

Question spurred by my attempts to do this in a comment to Non-religious mentions of God (or religious concepts) in the American English language .

How can I say this succinctly and correctly? I'm assuming that there may be legal terminology and journalistic conventions I should be aware of.

I don't think "the Court's majority opinion's assertion" is especially desirable, for instance.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I'm not sure if this exactly answers your question, but I read a lot of legalese as part of my day job, and I've never seen a reference to any court's "claim." Plaintiffs and defendants make many "claims," but courts' opinions contain findings and conclusions. "Claims" has an aura of advocacy -- something the courts don't engage in (not officially, at least).

Also, depending on context, you might not need to say "majority." You only need to specify if you're quoting from a dissent or a concurring opinion, or if you're contrasting the majority opinion with a dissent or a concurrence.

If I were writing the comment you mention, I might say something like

The Court found that . . . .

I don't find anything grammatically wrong with your version, though.

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Hmm -- good point. "claim" does have a legal use which I didn't mean to echo. My use of "claim" was as one statement among many assertions or arguments within the written opinion itself. In other words, there were many assertions or claims within the opinion. –  jbelacqua Mar 21 '11 at 1:08
    
+1 for brevity. I was going to answer that claim is a kind of opinion, or at least the expression of one, and suggest that the OP refer to "The U.S. Supreme Court's opinion ..." but I like this better. –  Robusto Mar 21 '11 at 1:18
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I've attempted to reword the question to remove 'claim' . –  jbelacqua Mar 21 '11 at 17:43
    
I like "assertion" better. Courts do a lot of asserting. :P –  Kelly Hess Mar 21 '11 at 18:21

If you find that a possessive form is clumsy, as for instance because multiple possessives would end up being used in the same sentence, you can generally rephrase the possessive structure as a prepositional phrase or similar construct. Usually A's B can be alternatively phrased as B of A or perhaps as B belonging to A if the idea of ownership needs to be emphasized. So you might choose to transform one or both of the possessives in the Court's majority opinion's claim; if both possessive were to be eliminated, the result might be the claim in the majority opinion of the Court.

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