Punctuation is important. (See “Eats, Shoots & Leaves.”) Here’s an example.

When Armstrong Petroleum Corp. v. Superior Court (1981) 114 Cal.App.3d 732 was first published, its lead sentence read, “Petitioners are a corporation engaged in the business of drilling oil and gas wells and two of the corporation’s attorneys.”

Before the opinion hit the bound volume of the Official Reports, however, a proofreader added a couple of commas to eliminate the unseemly insinuation that the company was routinely harming its chosen counsel. The amended sentence reads: “Petitioners are a corporation, engaged in the business of drilling oil and gas wells, and two of the corporation’s attorneys.” (Armstrong Petroleum, supra, 114 Cal.App.3d 732, 734.) The original, unedited sentence does live on, however, in the National Reporter System version of the opinion on Westlaw. (170 Cal.Rptr. 767, 767.)

This post is only tangentially related to the California Supreme Court. The only connections are that the court controls publication of Court of Appeal opinions (see here and here) and that the opinion’s author later served on the Supreme Court. But it nonetheless serves as a humorous good-practice reminder to carefully proofread your briefs (and opinions) before they go public.