The Supreme Court occasionally includes practice tips in its opinions. It did so in today’s Golden State Water Company v. Public Utilities Commission decision (see here). The tip is about incorporating by reference earlier briefing, and the tip is: don’t. Actually, it’s more a directive than a tip.

After declining the PUC’s request to dismiss the petitions in the case as moot, the court in the Water Company case turned “to the substance of the . . . challenge to the Commission’s decision.” It then dropped this footnote:

“Unfortunately, to address that substance, the Commission’s merits brief purports to incorporate by reference portions of the Commission’s earlier briefing, which makes the merits briefing less helpful to the court than it might have been. We caution litigants to avoid this practice in the future.” (Emphasis added.)

The “earlier briefing” mentioned is apparently what the court described as “the Commission[’s] mo[tion] for dismissal on grounds of mootness or else reconsideration of our initial issuance of the writs of review,” which the court said it “denied . . . without prejudice to the Commission ‘raising arguments concerning mootness in its answer brief.’ ”

That incorporating prior briefing by reference is “less helpful to the court” is reason enough not to do it. But it could also be viewed as an attempt to evade the limitation on the length of Supreme Court briefs (rule 8.520(c)) when the incorporating brief is close to the prescribed word or page limit.