How long are SC cases? Why so many pages???

Supreme Court decisions can sometimes be too long. The best examples of such are the cases of Poe-Llamanzares v. Comelec and Francisco v. House.

The majority opinion in Poe-Llamanzares has 18,308 words. However, the full text of the case, including separate opinions, has 688 pages. That is almost the length of a typical law textbook.

Writing about the above-mentioned case, Tan (2016) observed: "[T]he 688-page decision will torment students and generate fascinating debate in the coming years. This is normal. The most intimate Supreme Court debates are intergenerational. Our most powerful ideas draw strength not just from intellectual rightness, but from the weight of history shaped by far more than a single decision or a single set of justices."

The decision in Francisco is one of the most traumatic cases to read in law school. In fact, the majority decision alone has 30,377 words.

In the United States, the opinions in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the decision that lifted restrictions on corporate and union spending in candidate elections, spanned 183 pages and more than 48,000 words, or about the length of "The Great Gatsby." Brown v. Board of Education, the towering 1954 decision that held segregated public schools unconstitutional, managed to do its work in fewer than 4,000 words. When the court returned to just an aspect of the issue in 2007 in Parents Involved v. Seattle, it published some 47,000 words, enough to rival a short novel. In more routine cases, too, the court has been setting records. (Liptak, 2010)

There is merit in the opinion of others who take the view that the number of pages and words in a piece of jurisprudence is heavily influenced by how important the questions raised are and how controversial the issues are. At times, the Supreme Court takes the opportunity to write textbook-length decisions in order to guide the bench (judges) and the bar (lawyers).

Below are random samples of Philippine Supreme Court decisions promulgated in July 2019.

G.R. No. 239986 - 2,735 words
G.R. No. 231917 - 5,710 words
G.R. No. 229509 - 3,513 words

Below are random samples of July 2018 decisions.

G.R. No. 237721 - 2,851 words
G.R. Nos. 212761-62 - 32,030 words
G.R. No. 205698 - 19,589 words

Note the case above case with 32,030 words. This case involves Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada (Estrada), John Raymund de Asis (De Asis), and Janet Lim Napoles (Napoles).
Below are July 2009 decisions.

A.M. No. P-06-2245 - 3,420 words
A.M. No. P-08-2578 - 1,134 words
A.M. No. MTJ-08-1709 - 2,857 words

The decision above with 1,134 words (very short by law school standards) concerns Gaspar R. Dutosme who charged Atty. Rey D. Caayon (respondent), Branch Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 61, Bogo, Cebu, for soliciting and receiving the amount of P2,500 representing commissioner's and stenographer's fees and not issuing an official receipt therefor.

Possibly the shortest ever full-text decision is G.R. No. 1 (October 18, 1901). It has only 358 words. It easily fits on half a page of paper.

SOURCES: Oscar Franklin Tan - @inquirerdotnetPhilippine Daily Inquirer / 12:09 AM April 11, 2016. Supreme Court voting on Grace Poe clear.

ADAM LIPTAK. NOV. 17, 2010. Justices Are Long on Words but Short on Guidance.

FULL TEXT OF G.R. No. 1. October 18, 1901. THE UNITED STATES, Complainant-Appellee, v. MANUEL SY-TAY, Defendant-Appellant. Early & Levering, Attorneys for Appellant. Montagne & Dominguez, Attorneys for Appellee.

WILLARD, J.: In this motion, the moving party prays the court to dismiss the appeal from the judgment of the Court of First Instance of Manila. The accused was tried for seduction in the court of the justice of the peace of Binondo, and judgment of conviction was there rendered against him. He appealed from this judgment to the Court of First Instance of Manila, which took cognizance of the case on appeal and gave judgment affirming the judgment of the justice of the peace. From this judgment an appeal to this court was admitted.

The motion must be granted. Section 43 of General Orders, No. 58, permits an appeal in this class of cases only when there is involved the constitutionality or validity of a law. The accused alleges that General Orders, No. 58, is a law in force; that the said order repealed the Spanish Code of Criminal Procedure, and that he should have been tried in accordance with the provisions of said general order. The question whether one law repeals another is not a question that involves the validity of the law which is alleged to have been repealed, within the meaning of the exception. This exception refers only to those cases in which it is contended that a law was invalid from the time of its passage. In the present case there is no such contention. It results that all of the questions which are sought to be presented by means of this appeal were determined by the judgment of the Court of First Instance, and that in accordance with the provisions of section 43 of the abovementioned General Orders, No. 58, the said judgment is final and of such character that it can not be the subject of review in this court.

Wherefore, the motion of the appellee is granted and the cause is remanded to the Court of First Instance, whence it has proceeded, for its action in accordance herewith, with the costs de oficio.