“Purple Prose” Makes the Appellate Division See Red

McRae v. New Jersey Transit Bus Operations, Inc., 2016 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1598 (App. Div. July 8, 2016).  Appellate advocates like to write in ways that make an impact.  But sometimes they can go too far.  In today’s non-precedential, per curiam opinion in this appeal from a labor arbitration ruling, Judges Fisher and Fasciale expressed displeasure with language used in the appellant’s briefing.

The panel first quoted language from appellant’s briefing that, in at least two places, substituted other language for the statutory language relating to appeals of arbitration award that the Legislature adopted.  The effect of that was that appellant “suggests a meaning not necessarily the same as the Legislature’s clear expression.”

But appellant’s briefs must have gone well beyond that.  The panel went on to say that “[s]tripped of its purple prose, McRae and the union’s arguments exhibit little more than a disagreement with the findings and conclusions drawn by the two-member majority of the arbitration panel.  The language picked from N.J.S.A. 2A:24-8 in support of their arguments does not support judicial intervention into an arbitrated matter.”

Appellant had argued that the arbitration panel majority was biased because they “again and again, interpreted each and every fact and law in favor of [New Jersey Transit], while simultaneously ignoring or refusing to take into account cogent legal arguments and significant factual determinants.”  The panel stated that this argument was “as if McRae and the union were saying ‘the arbitrators that ruled against us must have been biased because they ruled against us.’  This is not a recognized ground for setting aside an arbitration award.”

Ultimately, the panel rightly observed that, by statute, the scope of review of an arbitrator’s decision is “limited” and “narrow.”  Appellant did not raise any legal issue worthy of full discussion, and the panel affirmed the arbitration ruling summarily, citing Rule 2:6-11(e)(1)(E), the “that’s ridiculous” rule.

Colorful writing can be good.  Indeed, without slighting Judge Fasciale’s own opinions, Judge Fisher in particular often writes colorfully, including in his opinions references to such things as Humpty Dumpty and the poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer.  “Purple prose,” however, is not a desirable color for brief writers.