Appellate Judges Tell Dallas Lawyers How to Handle an Appeal

April 5th, 2014

The Dallas Bar Association Judiciary Committee recently hosted a panel discussion with three prominent appellate judges.  Catharina Haynes is the only federal appellate judge in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  After years of sitting as a Dallas state trial court judge, she was appointed to sit on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Debra Lehrmann is the only Texas Supreme Court justice from Fort Worth.  Along with Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, she is one of only two Texas Supreme Court justices who began judicial service in North Texas.  After a distinguished career in a large Dallas law firm, Elizabeth Lang-Miers serves as a justice on the Fifth District Court of Appeals, which reviews the cases from Texas state trial courts in Dallas County and five other counties.

The three panelists offered a number of helpful tips for lawyers practicing before appellate courts.  Here are some that I found particularly helpful:

1. Limit the number of issues being raised in your appellate brief.  Judges loathe briefs that appear to be throwing things at the wall hoping that something will stick.  And, by including a relatively week issue in your brief, you will make your strong arguments appear less credible.

2. Keep in mind that an appellate judge has a heavy reading load.  As such, to avoid potentially frustrating the judge, keep your brief focused and concise.

3. Study opinions in cases analogous to yours to determine what underlying facts and what legal authority were necessary to write those opinions.  Then, draft your brief so as to include the facts and law you anticipate will be helpful in writing the opinion in your case.

4. Don’t just recite the standard of review in your brief.  Instead, incorporate the standard of review throughout your legal arguments.  Specifically, for each of your legal arguments, explain the impact of the standard of review on that argument.

5. Before you begin writing your brief, give some thought to what relief you would like the court of appeals to grant.  Then, keep that relief in mind as you are formulating your arguments.

6. Your brief should provide an orderly roadmap to a judge who is writing an opinion in your favor.  Make the roadmap easy to follow.

7. Your brief should tell a good story.  The more enjoyable your brief is to read, the better.

8. Your brief should be clear and easy to follow.  After you finish writing your brief, set it down for a few days, then pick it up and read it again to confirm that it still makes sense to you.  Even better, ask others to read your brief and let you know what they had trouble understanding.

9. Don’t disparage anyone else involved in the case (e.g., opposing counsel, opposing party, trial court judge).  Appellate judges do not appreciate ad hominem arguments.

10. The table of contents can be a powerful persuasive tool.  Don’t waste this opportunity to persuade an appellate judge, as this may be the first part of your brief that he or she reads.

11. An appellee should address the appellant’s points in the same order raised by the appellant.  If you absolutely must deviate from the appellant’s order, your appellee’s brief should point this out to the court.  Otherwise, you are wasting the judges’ time by making them determine which appellee’s point matches up with which appellant’s point.

12. Don’t make an appellate judge flip back and forth between your brief and another document.  Instead of making the appellate judge look at the document (e.g., the lower court’s judgment / opinion, the underlying contract, etc.), be sure to summarize the document’s relevant language in your brief.

13. Don’t take any liberties with what is contained in the record or in case law.  The judge’s law clerk will catch such deception and will point it out to the judge.

14. It might be helpful to include a visual aid in your brief (e.g., diagram, photograph, etc.) to help the judge understand the underlying facts.  If, for example, you are attempting to show the judge that the text of an underlying contract was too small, you could include an actual-size reproduction of the contract’s text.

15. Allow plenty of time to edit your brief.  A poorly-edited brief is not likely to impress an appellate judge.

16. Acknowledge weaknesses in the law and in the facts.  If you don’t point out your weaknesses, an appellate judge will discover them anyway, costing you credibility with the court.  Moreover, when you point out your weaknesses, you have an opportunity to explain why the judge should rule in your favor in spite of the weaknesses.

17. Give a lot of thought to what you request in the prayer of your brief.  Your prayer should not simply be an afterthought.  If possible, in your prayer, be sure to include alternatives to granting you all of the relief you are requesting.  Otherwise, a judge who is not inclined to give you all of the relief you are requesting might have to give you no relief at all.

18. When you are filing a petition in a court of discretionary review (such as the Texas Supreme Court), effective appellate advocacy is much different than it is when filing a brief to a court of mandatory review (such as the Dallas Court of Appeals).  In a court of mandatory review, your focus should be on explaining why the lower court was right or wrong.  In a court of discretionary review, your primary focus should be on why the issue you raise will significantly impact jurisprudence . . . and whether the lower court was right or wrong should be no more than a secondary focus.  In a court of discretionary review, you should try to make your issues stand out from the issues in other cases vying for the judge’s attention.  To do this, you should have a “hook” and repeat that hook throughout your filing.  Good drafting and editing is even more important in a court of discretionary review than it is in a court of mandatory review.  That is because, even if your issue could significantly impact jurisprudence and the lower court was obviously wrong, a judge is not inclined to grant review if your drafting is weak.  Rather, the judge is likely to simply wait to grant review until a similar issue is raised by a well-drafted brief in another case.

19. When preparing for oral argument, think outside the box as to all sorts of questions that you might be asked.  Don’t just think about your case.  Instead, think of questions about how various rulings in your case could impact other cases.  Be prepared to address questions about a hypothetical case with facts slightly different from yours.

20. Don’t argue that an appellate court should rule in a certain way merely because a sister court (or a lower court) has done so in another case, as this is simply not true.  The Dallas Court of Appeals is under no obligation whatsoever to rule consistently with the Fort Worth Court of Appeals.

21. When preparing for oral argument, make yourself thoroughly familiar with the record.  Appellate judges don’t have much patience with a lawyer who hasn’t done so prior to argument.  If you aren’t willing to commit the time needed to learn the record, then you probably shouldn’t request oral argument.

22. If there is one point that you really want to make at oral argument, you should plan to make it at the very beginning of your argument.  Once the judges being asking you questions, you may never have the opportunity to make the one point that is most important to you.

KTVT CBS 11 interview regarding recent appellate opinion

February 26th, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I was interviewed by a KDFW Fox 4 reporter regarding constitutional claims raised in recent litigation. Yesterday, I was interviewed by a KTVT CBS 11 reporter regarding an entirely different set of constitutional issues.

CBS 11

Here is the video:

KDFW Fox 4 interview regarding constitutional claims

February 13th, 2014

I was interviewed by a KDFW Fox 4 reporter regarding constitutional claims raised in recent litigation.

fox 4

Here is the video:

Dallas Lawyers on Twitter

October 11th, 2013

I have compiled the following list of Dallas-area lawyers on Twitter and their respective Twitter handles.  The list does not include lawyers west of the Dallas-Tarrant county line.  The list does not include law firms, but does include lawyers who work for law firms. The list includes lawyers who are not currently practicing law (e.g., judges, law professors).  If you can think of anyone whom I’ve inadvertently omitted from the list, please send me an email (chad@appeal.pro).

Maxine Aaronson – @maxineaaronson
Bryan Abercrombie – @cromdog
Tim Ackermann – @ntxip
John Adolph – @americajohnline
Monica Adriano – @monica_adriano
Mike Aigen – @zarleyziggy
Zahara Alarakhia – @zazalaw
Christy Albano – @christyalbano
Vince Allen – @iplawtexas
Frank Alvarez – @frankalvarez337
David Anderson – @danderson1973
Jeremy Anderson – @jeremycade
Michael Anderson – @manderson0416
Wil Angelley – @wangelley
John Ansbach – @jansbach25, @johnansbach
Shae Armstrong – @shaearmstrong
Gary Ashmore – @gary_ashmore
K.C. Ashmore – @kcashmore1
Jason Augustine – @augustinelaw
Brandy Harman Austin @thebrandyaustin
Steve Autry – @autry13
Kencade Babb – @kencadeb
Ann Massey Badmus – @annbadmus
David Bailey – @dabjd
Leigh Bailey – @leigh_bailey
Trina McReynolds Bailey – @trinamcrey
Marissa Balius – @marissabalius
Katie Bandy – @bandykatherine, @katherinebandy
Kris Barber – @barberlawfirm
Jennifer Barnes – @gingerbear_b
Frederick Barrow – @dfwlawyer
Brooke Basden – @brookeatbu
Jennifer Bennett – @jennbenn8
Allison Bernstein – @bernstein1102
Monica Berry – @m5berry
Matt Bethancourt – @mattbcourt
Vincent Bhatti – @bhattilawfirm
Sonya Bible – @sonyabible
Penny Brobst Blackwell – @pb322
Kristy Piazza Blanchard – @kblanchardlaw
Julie Biermacher – @jbiermacher
Randy Block – @randyblockdfw
Erin Martin Bogdanowicz – @erinbog
Rob Bogdanowicz – @lolyer
Carter Boisvert – @wcboisvert
Steve Bolden – @estevebolden
Talmage Boston – @talmageboston
Ira Bowman – @irabowman
Laci Myers Bowman – @laci_myers
Liz Boydston – @lizizwhereitiz
Stefanie Bradshaw – @stefbradshaw
Jeff Bragalone – @bragdogz
Trey Branham – @trey_branham
Jim Brashear – @jfbrashear
Grant Brenna – @grantbrenna
Emily Brewer – @emilybrewer13
Bill Bridge – @wbridge
Kandice Bridges – @kandicebridges
Nancy Kennedy Broden – @wakegirl75
Chip Brooker – @chipbrooker
Rebekah Brooker – @rebekahbrooker
Ada Brown – @justiceadabrown
Lee Brown – @leebrownlaw
Spencer Browne – @sbrowne51
Steve Bruneman – @marriagegamble
Danny Buechler – @danielbuechler
Michael Byrd – @byrdbyrd4
David Cabrales – @cabrales
Jason Cagle – @gndlawyer
Gabriela Cailide – @gabhavensearch
Teresa Cain – @dallaslawgirl
Tena Callahan – @tcalla
Aaron Capps – @atcapps
Kyle Carlton – @kbcarlton
Jon Carroll – @pjoncarroll
Stevi Carter – @stevicarter
Hilaree Casada – @hilareecasada
Kate Jett Cassidy – @katejettcassidy
Eric Cedillo – @ericcedillo
Liz Cedillo-Pereira – @widgeybell, @lizcp
Julie Anne Chandler – @julieannetweets
Ann Chao – @annchao
Chaz Chasanoff – @chazdfw
Andy Chatham – @judgeandy282
Richard Cheng – @dirtrico
Jim Chester – @trade_attorney
Julia Chester – @lechienblanc
Thelma Clardy – @thelclardy
Chris Clark – @insleeclark
Samantha Engelbart Clark – @samntx
Stephanie Stafford Cleveland – @4clevelands
David Coale – @600camp
Perry Cockerell – @pcockerell
Brooke Cohen – @mrookemom1
LaDawn Horn Conway – @appealgirl
Brent Cooper – @rbrentcooper
Nathan Cortez – @nathancortez
Jordan Cowman – @jordancowman
Joe Cox – @thejudgejoecox
Darlina Crowder – @darlinacrowder
Richard Cuccia – @attorneycuccia
Brian Cuban – @bcuban
Misty Keene Cunningham – @mistykeene
Robert Daniel – @bobdantx
Brandy Davis – @txschoollawyer
Chris Davis – @chrisdavislaw
Jerrod Davis – @jldavisag
Kate Pigg Decker – @kate54321
Ruben DeLeon – @rubendeleon001
Rocky Dhir – @rockydhir
Grant Dickey – @grantdickey
Heath Dixon – @heath_dixon
Leiza Dolghih – @leizad33
Cristina Doss – @cristinacdoss
Lisa Greenwood Duffee – @lduffee
Walker Duke – @wduke82
Trey Dyer – @dyertrey
Kate Eberhardt – @kateeber
Kevin Edwards – @kledallas
Amanda Ellis – @aellislegal
Ken Emanuelson – @kenemanuelson
Wade Emmert – @wadeemmert
Elisha Wroten Enoksen – @elishaenoksen
Dawn Estes – @dawnestes
Aimee Perilloux Fagan – @amperillouxf
Damien Falgoust – @dfalgoust
Brian Farlow – @bafarlow
Jana McBride Ferguson – @jferg11
Thomas Finley – @lawyercams1
Edwin Flores – @edwinflorestroy
Elaine Caldwell Flores – @laineyfox
Sarah Levy Foley – @sarahbeth
Julie Forrester – @jforrestsmuedu
John Fowler – @johnfowlerlaw
Lori Fox – @loriannfox
Larry Friedman – @texesq
Tom Fuller – @dallasmediate
Suzy Fulton – @badvizsla
Jacquie Gabbidon – @jacqtennis
Elizabeth Gambrell – @ergambrell
Kelly Ganzberger – @kellyganzberger
Dennise Garcia – @kdgarcia
Domingo Garcia – @domingotexas
Bill Gardner – @billgardner5
Scott Garelick – @lawbuff
Brian Garlitz – @briangarlitz
Bryan Garner – @bryanagarner
Alex Geczi – @alexandrageczi
Bret Gerard – @gerardlawyer
Steve Gibson – @jasgibson
John Gioffredi – @dallasdwiguy
Jim Girards – @girardslaw
Kay Goggin – @kaygoggin
Anil Gollahalli – @agollahalli
Mayella Gonzalez – @mayellag
Amy Castle Gray – @amycgray
Ginger Greenberg – @gingergreenberg
Natalie Gregg – @greggnatalie
Dean Gresham – @injurylawyer54
Cortland Kelly Grynwald – @cortgryn
Mike Gruber – @grubermike
Michael Guajardo – @mgguajardo
John Guild – @johnfguild
John Hagan – @lawyerhagan
Brian Hail – @litig8or90
Jim Hamel – @jameswhamel
Kal Hamideh – @hamidehk
Rhodes Hamilton – @rhodeswh
Rwan Hardesty – @rwanhardesty
Holly Harris – @hollyleeharris
Curtis Harrison – @harrisonlawyer
Karen Hart – @klawhart
Kendall Kelly Hayden – @hospitalitylwyr
Collin Hayes – @collinhayes
Beth Hearn – @bethmjhearn
Tate Hemingson – @tate_hemingson
Byron Henry – @byronkhenry
Wendy Hermes – @wendyhermes
Christina Herrera – @chrisherrera25
Matt Herzog – @mbherzog
Sarah Schechter Hetzel – @sschechter
Jeff Hightower – @jhighjr
Tricia Jewell Higson – @triciahigson
Chuck Hill – @cwhilllawyer
Matt Hill – @matthilldal
Steve Hill – @hillmediations
Zach Hilton – @zach_hilton
Kelly Hine – @mustang9397
Martha Hardwick Hofmeister – @martismartie
John Horany – @jkhorany
Mike Howard – @crimlawyerdfw
Emily Horton – @emilylawyer
Cat Hough – @catthelawyer
Erik Hsu – @whsu1
Sophilia Hsu – @ipsophfacto
Marc Hubbard – @marchubbard
Mike Huddleston – @huddlm
Joseph Hummel – @josephahummel
Jane Rose Hurst – @janerhurst
Dottie Hyde – @dallascarwreck
David Indorf – @hizzonerdci
Shawn Ismail – @shawnismail1
Coury Jacocks – @couryjacocks
Dan Jauchen – @djauchen
Wei Wei Jeang – @jeangw
Bob Jenevein – @bjenevein
Andy Jenkins – @akjlaw
Clay Jenkins – @clayjenkins
Jake Jenkins – @jakejenkinsdfw
Chris Jenks – @chrisjenks_smu
Anne McGowan Johnson – @anniemjo
Brenk Johnson – @brenkj
Richard Johnson – @rpjlaw
Sarah Davis Johnson – @sdavisjohnson
Andy Jones – @ajones777
Harry Jones – @haribaldijones
Preston Jones – @prestonlegal
Arshil Kabani – @arshil
Chris Kalis – @ckalis85
Bruce Kaye – @brucekaye
Peggy Keene – @phkeene
Geoff Keller – @geoffmkeller
John Kenefick – @jskenefick
Linda Kennon – @marcopierrewhit
Jennifer Mostyn King – @jmostynking
Philip Kingston – @philiptkingston
Kirte Kinser – @kirtekinser
Jason Kipness – @kiplawfirm
Matt Kita – @matthewkita
Lisa Kivett – @needtofindit
Darin Klemchuk – @dklemchuk
Kristen Knauf – @kristenknauf
Jennifer Wilcox Knott – @jenniferwknott
Nicole Babbitt Knox – @nicolebabbitt
J.J. Koch – @jjkoch
Mike Konczal – @mikekonczal
Tom Kulik – @legalintangibls
Kent Krabill – @kentkrabill
Bob Kraft – @bobkraft
Kathryn Kraft – @kathrynkraft
Chris Kratovil – @chris_kratovil
Shruti Krishnan – @shru22
Kimberly Kroll – @kimberlykroll
Sara Scoles Krumholz – @sscoles
Todd Krumholz – @jtkrum
Kelly Kubasta – @kkubasta
Rick Lambert – @rlambertdallas
Ryan Langston – @texaswaterguy
Bryan Larson – @bryanlars
Monica Wiseman Latin @mlatin
Chase Laws – @chaseplaws
Gary Lawson – @savetheibots
Jennifer Liebhauser LeBlanc – @jenleblancesq
Jonathan LeBlanc – @dallasinjurylaw, @dallastxlawyer
Mike Lee – @mikeleedallas
Patricia Beaujean Lehtola – @trishbeaujean
Jason Lemons – @jasonlemonsesq
David Leon – @davidlleon
Trey Lentz – @treylentz
Chris Lewis – @cwlewis214
Marilea Lewis – @marilealewis
Matt Lewis – @matthewblewis
Brian Lidji – @brianlidji
Hamilton Lindley – @hplindley
Kevin Lindstrom – @kevindlindstrom
Elizabeth Garrett Linhart – @linharte
Mitch Little – @jmitchelllittle
Laura Locke – @llockeitup
Wes Loegering – @westonloegering
Katie Long – @katielongtx
Amy Lott – @littlelott
Michael Lowe – @dallasjustus
Allyn Jaqua Lowell – @jaquajd
Jeff Lowenstein – @jefflowenstein
Melissa Lum – @lumlegal
Mey Ly – @meyly_jd
Mike Lyons – @lyons_michael
Jeff Martin – @witandcandor
Jennifer Gossom Martin – @jengossommartin
Tanja Martini – @martinilawfirm
Kenneth Martin – @urlegalbeagle
Mike Maslanka – @tx_workplacelaw, @worklawyer
Angel Mata – @splangel1
Tom Mayo – @tangowhiskymike
Orly Sulami Mazur – @orlymazur
Greg McAllister – @gregmcallisterj
Levi McCathern – @lmccathern
Kelly McClure – @mcclurelaw
Wade McClure – @wademcclure
Ashley McDowell – @ashdubmac
Scott McElhaney – @scottmmcelhaney
Sheryl McFarlin – @baylor2law
Charles McGarry – @chasman1957
Sonja McGill – @sonjamc
Adam McGough – @adam_mcgough
Patrick McLain – @attorneymclain
Mary Alice McLarty – @maryalicedallas
Mark McPherson – @enviropinions
Toni Meier – @tlmeier
Tom Melsheimer – @tommelsheimer
Mark Melton – @markmelton99
Ben Mesches – @benmesches
Adriana Rosas Midkiff – @armidkifflaw
Kim Miers – @drumeg
Tom Mighell – @tommighell
Mitch Milby – @milbylaw
Aaron Miller – @aaronrmiller
Kaitlan Moczulski – @kaitlanmargeen
Stephanie Mongiello – @mongiellolaw
David Monk – @drumesq
Rachel Montes – @remontes
Chris Montez – @crossmontez
Daniel Moon – @dsmoon1
Audrey Moorehead – @missaudreyjd
Diana Morales – @dmoralestx
Mike Moran – @slickmwm
Jennifer Morris – @jennmorris
Kim Smith Morris – @divorceintexas
Heather Morschauser – @idleminddesign
Ross Mortillaro – @rossmo13
Jim Moseley – @justicemoseley
Missy Mosteller – @mmosteller
Jason Mueller – @louderthanme
Cheryl Camin Murray – @cherylcamin, @ccamin
Majed Nachawati – @dallaswrongful
Mark Nacol – @nacollawfirm
Nancy Navarro – @nancynaner
Jamey Newberg – @newbergreport
Bryan Ng – @bryancng
Jonathan Neerman – @jonathanneerman
Becky Niederstadt – @bnieders
Tennessee Nielsen – @tennesseen
Mary Goodrich Nix – @mgn_emplawyer
Clifford Nkeyasen – @kwadwo80
Jennifer Waddell Null – @sassyjenw
Michelle May O’Neil – @oneilattorneys
Melanie Kemp Okon – @mkokon
Celina Diaz Orr – @cmdorr
Tessy Ortiz – @despachoortiz
Will Pace – @wrpace
Ann Marie Painter – @ampintexas
Theda Page – @pagelawfirm
Ben Palatiere – @benpalatiere
Dana Palmer – @danacpalmer
James Parker – @jamesfparker
Bhaveeni Parmar – @techsavvylaw
Blair Partlow – @blairpartlow
Chris Parvin – @parvinchris
Cordell Parvin – @cordellparvin
Dustin Paschal – @dustinp
Alyson Dietrich Pawlik – @alysonttu
Andy Payne – @andrewlpayne
Michael Pegues – @mdpegues
Lori Ashmore Peters – @lashmorepeters
Drew Peveto – @p1lawyer
Carrie Johnson Phaneuf – @cjphaneuf
Rich Phillips – @rbphillipsjr
Jim Pikl – @jimpikl
Kelly Pinckard – @kpinckard
Aimee Pingenot – @apingenot
Mike Pipkin – @mfpranger
Kirk Pittard – @kirkpittard
Cindy Pladziewicz – @cynthiapladz
Jake Pollack – @jakepollack
Bryan Pollard – @bryanpollard
Bryan Pope – @bigdjustice
Jared Pope – @jspattorney
Will Pryor – @mediator_will
Charles Quaid – @CharlesQuaid
Rob Radcliff – @robradcliff
Suzanne Claude Radcliff – @equinelawyer
Jeff Raggio – @jeffraggio
Aaron Ramirez – @aaronrramirez
Todd Ramsey – @injurylawyertod
Tonya Ramsey – @texastonya
Jeff Rasansky – @jeffrasansky
Stuart Rasley – @srasley
Gary Redman – @glredmanii
Troy Reimer – @reimerlegal
Angel Reyes – @angelreyes3
Molly Buck Richard – @mollyrichard
Jennifer Richardson – @ahrlawfirm7
Bill Richmond – @thedozingpanda
Joel Richmond – @joelrichmond
David Ritter – @ritterlegal
Cody Robinette – @crobinette24
Keith Robinson – @wkeithrobinson
Russ Roden – @rhroden
Rudy Rodriguez – @rrodrig305
Stacy Jordan Rodriguez – @sj_rodriguez
Derek Rollins – @natties_daddy
John Roper – @johneroper
Jeremy Rosenthal – @collincolawyer
Adam Ross – @abross1000
Jason Ross – @title18
Kevin Ross – @kbrcrimlaw
Tara Ross – @taraross
Justin Roy – @justinhroyatty
Chad Ruback – @appellatelaw
Rob Ruhlin – @taxlawyerdallas
Abby Newman Ruth – @abbynruth
Meghan Ryan – @meghanjryan
Blake Sachs – @blakesachs
Matt Sallusti – @mattsallusti
Matt Sanderson – @dealattorney
Mindy Sauter – @sauterlaw
Michael Savage – @mtsavage1
Michael Sawicki – @mgsawicki
John Scheef – @johnscheef
Michael Schmidt – @schmidtfirm
Jimmy Schnurr – @jimmyschnurr
Pete Schulte – @peteschultetx
Rob Scott – @bsaattorney
Jessica Sennett – @jsennett
Hutton Sentell – @huttonsentell
Ajay Shah – @ajayshawlaw
Shideh Sharifi – @mediator_shideh
Kenneth Sheets – @repkensheets
Michele Sheets – @michele_sheets
Alan Sherman – @alansherman
KD Shull – @kdshull
Amy Shahan – @ashahan
Ramez Shamieh – @ramezshamieh
Stephanie Brooks Sherman – @sshermandallas
Toby Shook – @toby_shook
Phil Smith – @philsmith79
Stephanie Smith – @smithstephaniek
Tailim Song – @tailimsong
Kevin Spencer – @recklesstx
Marc Stanley – @mstanley15
David Starr – @redsocker19
Jacob Stasny – @jacobstasny
Jason Steed – @5thcircappeals
Lindsay Stengle – @lindsaystengle
Quitman Stephens – @quitmanstephens
Shawn Stevens – @dshawnstevens
Amy Stewart – @amystewartlaw
Matt Stewart – @disability_atty
Paul Stickney – @judgestick
Jerry Tadlock – @jerrytadlock
David Taylor – @davidotaylor
Sherin Thawer – @sherinthawer
Bruce Thomas – @brucekthomas
Beth Thornburg – @btsmu
Rebecca Tillery – @rebeccatillery
Jeff Tillotson – @jtillot
John Ting – @johntinglaw
Rosalyn Peacock Tippett – @attorneytippett
Aaron Tobin – @padsy2
William Toles – @4whomthebell
Yolanda Torres – @yolandamtorres
Chris Trowbridge – @c_trowbridge
Brenda Tso – @wbrendatso
Glenn Tucker – @tuckerglennd
Shawn Tuma – @shawnetuma
Ted Turner – @teeesqrd
Zeke Tyson – @ezekieltyson
Martin Valko – @martinvalko
Adam Vanek – @adamvaneklaw
Allen Vaught – @allenvaught
Jimmy Vaught – @jimmyvaught
David Vereeke – @hoganben
Ashlie Thomas Vieira – @ashliet
Daniel Vieira – @cariocadan
Peter Vogel – @petersvogel
Richard Wallace – @richardwallace3
Grant Walsh – @grantwalsh77
Daryl Washington – @dwashlawfirm
Craig Watkins – @craigmwatkins
Paul Watler – @pwatler
Cyndi Watson – @cyndilwatson
Jessica Dixon Weaver – @profjdweaver
Brad Weber – @brad_weber
David Weiner – @dweinertex
Mark Werbner – @mwerbner
Warren Westberg – @warrenwestberg
Suzanne Raggio Westerheim – @srwesterheim
James Whalen – @jamespwhalen
Bill Whitehill – @whitehillhq
Bob Widner – @bobwidner
Karen Willcutts – @karenwillcutts
Bruce Willis – @oakwave
Greg Willis – @gregwillisda
Chris Wilmoth – @chriswilmoth
Elisabeth Wilson – @ewilsonattorney
Jeremy Wilson – @jeremy_wilson1
Jim Winblood – @jimwinblood
Jason Winford – @jason_winford
Amy Witherite – @amywitherite
Robert Witte – @robertjwitte
Grant Wood – @energylawblog
Martin Woodward – @rulesofblazon
Paul Wright – @pfwright
Dan Wyde – @wydeandassoc
Michael Wysocki – @michaeldwysocki
Mike Yanof – @myanof
Jeff Yates – @jeffaggie94
Eric Yepez – @el_guapo_21
Eileen Bamberger Youens – @eyouens
Adam Zaner – @azaner
Karin Zaner – @zanerk
Bridget Zeigler – @bridgetzig
Rachel Ziolkowski – @rachelziol
Justin Zukoff – @jzukoff

Nathan Hecht Sworn-In as Chief Justice of Texas Supreme Court

October 2nd, 2013

Yesterday, Nathan Hecht was sworn-in as chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court.  The Texas Lawbook published an article I co-authored about Chief Justice Hecht’s tenure on the Supreme Court.

 

Chad Ruback to speak about how to ethically market a law practice

July 22nd, 2013

INVITATION FROM THE DALLAS ASSOCIATION OF YOUNG LAWYERS:

Join the DAYL Solo and Small Firm Committee at noon on Wednesday, July 24th at the Belo Mansion for a one hour CLE, including .50 hours of ethics credit, and learn “How to Effectively Use the Internet to Market a Law Firm Within the Boundaries of the State Bar Rules.” The presentation will specifically address how to best use websites and social media to market your firm, and is geared towards solo and small firm attorneys. The speaker will be Chad Ruback, Appellate Lawyer. There is no charge for DAYL members to attend; there is a $10 fee for non-members. RSVP to Cherie Harris (cherieh@dayl.com).

Pointers from a Dallas Court of Appeals Justice

July 11th, 2013

Yesterday afternoon, I attended a CLE presented by Dallas Court of Appeals Justice Doug Lang.  Here are some of the pointers offered by Justice Lang:

1. If the trial court judge makes an oral ruling but the ruling does not appear in the record, the ruling is not reversible on appeal.  Because rulings are often made at bench conferences, attorneys should request that the court reporter make a record at all bench conferences.

2. For the court of appeals to affirm or reverse based on trial testimony, that testimony must be in a form that can be captured in a court reporter’s record.  Gesturing simply cannot be captured in the reporter’s record.  For example, a witness pointing to a particular place on a map and saying “It happened there” does not provide any evidence to the court of appeals.  In such a situation, a lawyer could state something like “Let the record reflect that the witness is pointing to the X on the map.”  Or, the lawyer could ask the witness something like “Are you pointing to the X on the map?”

3. In an appellate brief, an attorney should be careful not to misrepresent case law or the record.  Appellate justices read the cases cited and pertinent parts of the record and will certainly detect any deceptive statements included in the brief.  Candor is critical to effective appellate advocacy.

4. Due to the time limits imposed at oral argument, advocates must focus on what is truly the most important message to convey to the court.  Make the first sixty seconds of oral argument really count by getting to the point right away.

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Offers Tips on Appellate Advocacy

April 27th, 2013

I recently attended a CLE presented by Catharina Haynes, the only federal appellate judge with chambers in the Dallas – Fort Worth area.  Judge Haynes offered a number of valuable tips on appellate advocacy:

1. The table of contents is often the first part of your brief read by an appellate judge.  As such, don’t neglect this important opportunity to advocate your position.

2. A table of authorities should never use “passim.”  Judges want to know exactly where in a brief to find your argument about a particular legal authority, even if this argument is on many different pages.

3. Appellate judges are experts on the science of judging, but cannot possibly be experts on every substantive area of law.  So, don’t assume that the judges assigned to your case will be familiar with the area of law at issue.  Instead, your brief should provide a basic tutorial about the underlying law.

4. If your case has any warts, be sure to point them out in your brief and address them.  If you ignore the fact that your case has a potential shortcoming, your credibility may be seriously damaged with the court.  Neglecting to mention adverse facts or legal authority is tantamount to outright dishonesty.

5. Judges can quickly become frustrated with a lawyer who gets sloppy with references to the appellate record.  If you indicate that something is somewhere in the record, be absolutely certain that it is really there.

6. The court’s workload is quite heavy.  In light of this, judges often become quite displeased when they determine that a brief is longer than absolutely necessary.

7. Many appellate attorneys don’t put enough thought into drafting their prayer.  The prayer is an opportunity to advocate your position and should not simply be boilerplate language.  Be cognizant of the fact that you may need to pray for several alternative remedies, as the appropriate remedy may vary depending on which of your arguments the appellate judges ultimately adopt.

8. Rather than merely including the required documents in your appendix / record excerpts, be sure to include other materials which might be especially helpful to the court.  If, for example, there is an affidavit which is crucial to your case, that affidavit should likely be included.

9. Even when you are certain that you won’t be able to persuade one of the judges on your panel, don’t make the mistake of failing to address that judge’s concerns about your case.  Before the other judges on your panel sign-off on an opinion in your favor, they will likely need to respond to that judge’s concerns.  And you, of course, will want to make this as easy as possible.

Facts in Oral Argument at the Texas Supreme Court

December 17th, 2012

Last week, Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann spoke in Dallas about (1) how the court decides whether to grant or deny review; (2) common mistakes seen in appellate petitions and briefs; and (3) oral argument at the court. Because Justice Lehrmann had so many great insights, I am dedicating a blog post to each of these three topics.  Here is the THIRD of the three blog posts:

Justice Lehrmann suggested that, at a supreme court oral argument, advocates should not address the facts of the case at all (except when necessary to respond to a justice’s question).  If the supreme court selects a case for oral argument, the justices have already spent months familiarizing themselves with the case.  The justices have read the petition for review and response and have decided that the case merits further study.  The justices have requested and read full briefs on the merits from both sides.  The justices have discussed the case at multiple court conferences.  After having spent months preparing to hear an oral argument, the justices do not appreciate being addressed as if they had done little or no preparation.

Common Mistakes Seen in Appellate Petitions and Briefs

December 16th, 2012

Last week, Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann spoke in Dallas about (1) how the court decides whether to grant or deny review; (2) common mistakes seen in appellate petitions and briefs; and (3) oral argument at the court.  Because Justice Lehrmann had so many great insights, I am dedicating a blog post to each of these three topics.  Here is the SECOND of the three blog posts:

As for common mistakes seen in appellate petitions and briefs, Justice Lehrmann addressed seven.

The first common mistake is including a statement of facts that has too much or too little detail.  A statement of facts should tell a good story and simply cannot do so if it has too much or too little detail.

The second common mistake is including too few case citations.  After all, appellate review largely revolves around analysis of legal precedent.

The third common mistake, applicable only to practice before the supreme court, is over-reliance on lower court holdings.  The supreme court relies primarily on its own precedent and, consequently, prefers that advocates do the same.

The fourth common mistake is use of hyperbole.  It is simply not persuasive to argue that the world will end if the court rules a certain way.  An example of such a blunder: “The [court of appeals] holding will unleash havoc and disorder upon the entire system of justice in Texas.”  Justice Lehrmann reasoned: “Arguments that read as if the outcome of the case threatens to harken the apocalypse achieve the opposite result of what they want to achieve.”

The fifth common mistake is poor proofreading.  Typographical errors and improper punctuation detract from an otherwise strong argument.  It is amazing that many documents filed with the supreme court do not appear to have been proofread.

The sixth common mistake is failing to address arguments which your opponent has made or is likely to make.  While addressing counter-arguments should not be the primary focus of your filing, it is unwise to simply ignore them.

The seventh common mistake is failing to include sufficient record citations.  Stating a fact without citing to the record will likely prompt a reader to disregard that fact. It is impossible to include too many record citations.  When stating a fact, don’t just cite to one instance in the record which supports the fact; cite to every such instance in the record.  “Doing so may just tip the scales in your favor.”