Among the overall commentary on the Supreme Court's Brown v Plata decision, see, e.g., Sent Law & Policy, Scotus Blog, 5/24, Scotus Blog, 5/25, and Scotus Blog, 5/26, there's been lots of chattering about Justice Kennedy's use of these three photos in his opinion. See, e.g., Sent Law & Policy, 5/23, SDFL Blog, 5/23, Slate, 5/23, and NY Times, 5/23. I don't see what the fuss is about. The photos are part of the court record and provide graphic evidence demonstrating the conditions in California state prisons. The photo above is not from the Plata opinion, but is among many in the record from the website of amicus counsel. RBG-Law selected trial materials. A NY Times, 5/25/11 piece includes more recent photos and this graph to show that California prisons are still vastly over-crowded and provide inadequate medical care and mental health treatment.
With the trend toward fully electronic briefs, it's only a matter of time before photos and digital recordings are routinely inserted in briefs and opinions. My only question: if a photo is worth a 1,000 words, does a photo count toward the word limit in a brief?