Appellate Advocacy

This stock photo of a leather-clad woman motorcyclist is topical rather than gratuitous, we’re sorry to say.

Isn’t it nice when appellate courts hear oral argument at law schools? It’s great for bench-bar relations for the judges to leave their marble palace and spend some time with the legal community. It’s great for law students to see what real-world litigation looks like without having to leave campus. It’s generally a win-win situation for all involved.

But a recent calendar at a New York law school didn’t go so smoothly. The legal profession has a sexism problem, but there’s no need for judges to demonstrate it by directing sleazy quips at women lawyers arguing before them….

(Please note the UPDATE, featuring the identity of the judge in question.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Law School Dean Turns A Judge’s Sexist Snafu Into A Teachable Moment”

* Apparently, heckling Carmelo Anthony can cost you your job. [Dealbreaker]

* There’s nothing the Supreme Court can do to stop cops who want to take a long time to release you from a stop, even if the Court wants to. [Simple Justice]

* I think we should just ask John Roberts to tell every state precisely how they are allowed to discriminate against black voters and be done with it. Just tell us the rules so we can start the GOTV campaigns. [Election Law Blog]

* Former Manhattan Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa gets a year in jail for purchasing a sham marriage to gain citizenship. The “for citizenship” part is what got her, because lots of politicians are in sham marriages. [Journal News]

* Judge Frank Easterbrook thinks that the new proposed length limit for appellate briefs is too short. Verbose litigators everywhere, rejoice. [How Appealing]

* I thought “spoofing” was bad for the market, but Matt Levine says cracking down on spoofing “helps” high-frequency traders, who I also think are bad for the market. You know why I’m not an SEC lawyer? Prosecuting people based on them being “bad” becomes untenable when everybody involved is rich. [Bloomberg View]

In past columns I wrote about how a lawyer and a judge use iPads as part of their daily routine. And there’s a good reason that iPads were the first tablets discussed; it’s because the vast majority of lawyers who use tablets in their practices choose the iPad. In fact, according to the 2014 ABA Legal Technology Survey, 84% of lawyers surveyed who used tablets preferred the iPad and only 10% used Android devices, with the remaining 6% using other types of tablets.

The lawyer I’ll be featuring today, Scott Bassett, is one of the 6%. Scott is a solo practitioner who lives in Florida with a practice focused on Michigan appellate work, and his tablet of choice is the Sony Digital Paper model #DPT-S1. Even though his Sony tablet costs more, he prefers it over the iPad because it’s versatile and substantially lighter: “My tablet is so thin and light you barely know you’re carrying it. At $1,100 it costs nearly twice as much as the iPad, but weighs half as much as the iPad Air. Not only is it lighter, it has a full-size, 13.5-inch screen, so documents appear on my screen full size. It’s a better screen than the iPad Kindle app because of the backlit LCD screen. It’s much easier to read and offers better reading comfort when you’ve got hundreds of pages of trial transcripts to read through. And, the batteries last nearly an entire month.”

What are some of its other advantages?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Today’s Tech: An Appellate Attorney And His Sony Tablet”


Appellate practices are great.

For lawyers who enjoy thinking and writing, but don’t have much taste for the hand-to-hand combat of discovery, appellate practices are pure joy. Appellate advocates bask in the intelligence and majesty of the law, without having to do daily battle with psychopaths.

For big firms, appellate practices are the crown jewels of the litigation side of the shop: “We’ve argued cases in the Supreme Court!” “We participated (either on the merits or as amici) in ten percent of the Supreme Court’s docket last year!” Shout it to the heavens! What’s the implicit message?

“We’re doing these cases for free!”

Oh, Herrmann, you’re such a cynic. Surely the implicit message is: “We’re God’s gift to advocacy!”

It’s a marketer’s dream.

But one leading appellate lawyer recently told me that the Great Recession has hurt his practice in ways you wouldn’t expect. And I’m here to tell you that, although appellate practices done right can help a firm, appellate practices done wrong are dangerous things . . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Appellate Practices: Big, Small, And Dangerous”

Judge Richard Posner isn’t amused — but we are!

Judge Richard Posner isn’t trying to entertain us. He just does.

When he benchslaps prominent Biglaw partners or government lawyers fighting marriage equality, he’s not trying to be funny. He’s just trying to understand the facts of a case or get to the bottom of the legal arguments — and he’s, well, maybe not as diplomatic as some other judges in going about his business.

Let’s check out the latest argument where Judge Posner snarked on hapless counsel….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “More Benchslaps — But Mild Ones — From Judge Richard Posner”

There’s not really much to say here. There are just a few things to remember to avoid an embarrassing oral argument. Basically, don’t condescend to the judges on your appellate panel, and try to show up wearing pants (and maybe some socks). Pretty simple, right?

We’ve seen this kind of confrontational tone out of lawyers before, and it never ends well for the attorney. Like when Jones Day’s Matthew Kairis thought it wise to continuously interrupt Judge Posner in Notre Dame v. Sibelius. What happened next was… entirely predictable: Kairis ended up with an earful from Judge Posner about the proper role of an advocate before an appellate panel.

This poor fellow earns the same basic tongue-lashing, just with a different accent…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “How Not To Behave At Oral Argument”

In my last column, I shared how Judge Richard Wesley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is using his iPad while on the bench. I explained how he got started using technology—by using PDFs instead of paper documents—and eventually transitioned to using his iPad for many of his judicial duties. And we learned that not only does he use an iPad, he has managed to convince some of his Second Circuit colleagues to do the same, thus reducing the amount of paper used by the judges.

It was clear from my last column that Judge Wesley is sold on the benefits of using technology. But he’s also well aware of the drawbacks—a topic I promised to cover in today’s column. So let’s get started.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Today’s Tech: A Federal Judge And His iPad (Part 2)”

Lawyers have embraced mobile computing at a much faster rate than other types of emerging technologies. In fact, according to the American Bar Association’s 2013 legal technology survey, nearly 91% of lawyers now use smartphones in their law practices, up from 89% in 2012. Tablet use has also increased quickly, with 48% of lawyers reporting that they now use tablets in their law practices, up from 33% in 2012.

Those are impressive numbers considering that the iPhone was first released in 2007 and the iPad became available to the public in just 2010. So in less than a decade, these mobile tools have become commonplace in law offices, and tablet continues to rise.

And it’s not just practicing lawyers who use tablets. Believe it or not, judges do, too. In fact, not only do some of them use tablets — some of them rely on their tablets to get their jobs done. Judge Richard Wesley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is one of those judges. In this two-part series, I’m going to share with you how he uses his iPad to increase his efficiency on the bench and what he thinks about the effects of technology on the legal profession.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Today’s Tech: A Federal Judge And His iPad (Part 1)”

Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Conestoga and Hobby Lobby cases, the high-profile challenges to the Obamacare contraception mandate. Many ordinary citizens wish they could tune in to the arguments on TV, or at least catch clips on the Daily Show nightly news. After all, how else can Americans access this valuable information that could change their lives forever? I mean, without an Upworthy piece or a Buzzfeed listicle?

Of course, serious folks make serious arguments championing televised coverage of Supreme Court arguments. UC Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky wrote an opinion piece this week, arguing that “[t]here is no excuse for keeping cameras out of the Supreme Court.” (Apparently, Chemerinsky wants cameras in and Justice Ginsburg out, for those keeping track of Chemerinsky’s wish list.) Earlier this month, the Coalition for Court Transparency, a group of press organizations and pro-transparency NGOs, sent a letter to Chief Justice Roberts, urging the Court to permit the video recording and broadcast of its courtroom.

So, what are opponents of cameras at One First Street so scared of? Do they worry that Chief Justice Roberts will start mugging for the camera? That Justice Scalia will insist on an added laugh track? That Justice Kagan will embark on a dangerous juice fast to slim down like a Hollywood starlet? (Actually, it looks like she already has.)

Those are not my concerns, but here is why I still think video coverage of U.S. Supreme Court arguments is a terrible idea….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Conservative Case For Keeping Cameras Out Of The Courtroom”

Judge Richard Posner

From the Above the Law mailbag: “Is ATL ever going to call out Judge Posner for being so needlessly nasty to litigants?”

Ummm, no. I’m a big fan of Judge Richard Posner, who is brilliant and hilarious. (Yes, hilarious — if you doubt that, check out the awesome podcast that he and I did together, which you can download and listen to during your commute or at the gym.)

But in the interest of fairness, I will make this reader’s case. This correspondent cited the recent oral argument in Notre Dame v. Sebelius, which we alluded to yesterday, in which Judge Posner dispensed some benchslaps to Matthew Kairis, head of litigation in the Columbus office of Jones Day. The reader also mentioned the argument on remand in the Conrad Black case, alleging that Posner “was particularly nasty to Miguel Estrada, seemingly piqued that Estrada got him reversed by SCOTUS.”

Let’s focus on the Notre Dame v. Sebelius argument, since it just happened. How bad was it?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Benchslap Dispatches: I Pity The Fool Who Tries To Talk Over Judge Posner”

Page 1 of 41234