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Top 5 Appellate Courtrooms in America

Posted on 15 April, 2021 at 13:50 Comments comments (3369)

This country has some pretty great appellate courtrooms. It is always exciting to present your case at oral argument, but it is even more enthralling when you appear before one of the great appellate courtrooms in our nation. We have had the opportunity of being in some of America’s great appellate courtrooms and here is our top 5 list:


Number 5 (tie) - Massachusetts Court of Appeals – These courtrooms are not as imposing as their sister courtroom at the Supreme Judicial Court, but both appellate courtrooms at the Massachusetts Court of Appeals are a great environment to make your argument. These are well proportioned courtrooms that possess a New England air to them – classy, not too ornate and have a timeless appeal. For whatever reason, these courtrooms lend themselves to a certain electricity lacking in some other appellate arenas. A great environment to argue an appellate matter.


Number 5 (tie)- New York Appellate Division, Second Department- This is a rich and elegant room. The intricate details of the ceiling are not truly captured by pictures. The ambiance here is one of gravitas and old school charm. It feels like a centuries old library belonging to an English university. A warm, comforting room that serves as a great place to make an appellate argument.


Number 4- Second Circuit Court of Appeals- This courtroom is grand in scale and its most memorable image is the captivating detail work upon the ceiling. Again, this is a large room and the appellate judges are quite some distance from the attorneys. However, this adds to the elegance and relaxed nature of this particular courtroom. Although situated in NYC, this courtroom has the elegant, lush feel of the Pebble Beach golf course in California. It is plush and serene yet not overly extravagant. A fine appellate courtroom.


Number 3- Indiana Supreme Court- This is the grand dame of appellate courtrooms. If the Wardolf Astoria ever constructed an appellate courtroom, then this would be the one for its clientele. This is an ornate, large room befitting the highest court of the state. Interestingly, this is a large courtroom, but the appellate attorneys are stationed at close proximity with the appellate panel. This creates a very striking tone whereas the natural electricity of argument is heightened by the proximity of the participants, but at the same time you are always well aware of the vast nature of this special legal arena. This courtroom truly is a gem.


Number 2- Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts- This courtroom is where America’s oldest appellate body holds court. This courtroom is reminiscent of a Fortune 500 board room where things get done. The weighty nature of this courtroom strikes you as soon as you enter the room. At some point, you think Anthony Hopkins will come from behind the curtain and hold a board meeting for his trillion dollar company, but then you remember this is an appellate courtroom where legal issues are decided. To a certain extent, more important business is handled at the SJC. Finally, this room has the best ambient lighting of any appellate courtroom in America. A cinematographer must have constructed this appellate masterpiece. The SJC courtroom is an entrancing experience.


Number 1- New York Appellate Division, First Department- The previous listings are all incredible appellate courtrooms. However, the First Department courtroom is akin to stepping inside a heavenly body. This is not a courtroom for mere mortals. It is timeless. It is overwhelmingly beautiful. It is America’s finest appellate courtroom. The intricate murals on the walls and the extravagant stained glass dome that hovers above the court reminds the attorneys that they are engaging in legal combat in the pantheon of appellate courtrooms. This is unquestionably the finest appellate courtroom in the United States.


Written by: John V. Siskopoulos, Esq. and Alexandra Siskopoulos, Esq.

Telephone: (646) 942-1798

Email: [email protected]


If you have a civil appeal or criminal appeal and would like to speak with an appellate attorney at Siskopoulos Law Firm, LLP, contact us at either (646) 942-1798 or (617) 959-1628.


Disclaimer: This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

10 Best Appellate Attorney Practices

Posted on 14 February, 2019 at 17:30 Comments comments (2098)

10 Best Appellate Attorney Practices: 


Whether you are looking to appeal a criminal conviction or appeal a civil court order or judgment, there are a number of practices that should be employed by any good appellate attorney.


Lawyers who are not familiar with appeals often attempt to introduce new arguments or pieces of evidence that were not raised at the trial level. Remember an appeal is not a chance to retry a case, but instead is a legal procedure which is supposed to ensure that trial courts follow the laws. As such, these reviewing courts are concerned with legal errors that were committed by the trial court and an appeal is a chance to address these errors. If the appellate court finds that these errors were prejudicial, the court will overturn the case and order a new trial. This is done in order to ensure that individuals get a fair trial that follows to the law.


The failure to understand the role of the appellate courts can be a major factor in whether you win or lose your appeal. Once you understand the role of the appellate courts, the following is a list of the best practices utilized by lawyers on an appeal:

 

1.     The Best Appellate Attorneys always review the record on appeal.


The record on appeal provides all the information needed to understand which issues were preserved at the trial court level. Preserved issues are always the strongest arguments on appeal.


An appellate attorney needs to support their arguments with citations to the record on appeal. Failing to provide factual citations to your argument is a novice mistake. Without citations to the record, there is no proof the the issue was preserved at the trial level and the appellate court will always ask whether there is proof the issue was preserved. 


Finally, knowledge of the appellate record allows an attorney to counter arguments made by the opposing party. By referencing the record on appeal, you can explain to the appellate court why the opposing party's argument should fail. 

 

2.      The Best Appellate Attorneys frame the appellate issues properly.


This is where experience matters. Framing the issue on appeal way of telling the appellate court which legal issues it needs to address. 


Being able to skillfully frame the issues on appeal is of the utmost importance because it helps the court to understand the law at issue, how the trial court committed error, and how it materially prejudiced the party. All this information must be conveyed in a short and concise statement that makes a strong statement as to how the error tainted the case.


An appellate brief starts with a statement of the issues. It is the first thing the court looks at when the judges begin reading the brief. A properly framed issue can help bolster the appellate attorney's argument and allows the court to understand the legal issues presented right from the start.



3.      The Best Appellate Attorneys apply the appropriate standard of review.


Appellate courts need to know which standard of review they are applying to the issues. In fact, most courts require that this information be provided in the argument section of the brief. As such, an appellate attorney should specifically state whether the court is applying the de novo standard of review or the abuse of discretion standard of review. 


Many inexperieced lawyers attempt to gloss over this part of the appeal because they either do not understand the standards of review or because they are trying to gloss over a weakness in the appeal. Experienced appellate attorneys address these issues in a straightforward manner. The law can become somewhat complicated, but an experienced appellate attorney has the knowledge and ability to set forth the applicable law when explaining to the court the appropriate standard to be used in deciding the issue. 

 

4.      The Best Appellate Attorneys follow the appellate court's rules.


An experienced appellate attorney knows that each court has its own rules and practices. All too often inexperienced attorneys do not review the rules and find that their filings have technical defects. Check the rules and check them often. 

 

5.      The Best Appellate Attorneys make sure they cite good law.


While it is easy to work off of old appellate briefs when drafting your new appeal, this is not good legal practice. Do not be lazy.


You are hired to try and win the appeal. You cannot do this by recycling old briefs where you run the risk of inadvertently citing old law that has been modified or, even worse, overturned. 


Appellate attorneys understand that the law is constantly evolving. Just as the rules of the court can change, the law that governs the case can also change. 

 

6.      The Best Appellate Attorneys format their papers properly.


As an appellate attorney, I can tell you that appellate courts will reject papers that are not properly formatted. Again, the court rules explicitly detail how the brief is to be formatted. Even if you hire an appellate printer, it is still your responsibility to make sure they follow the applicable formatting rules. 

 

7.      The Best Appellate Attorneys make appropriate motions.


An appellate attorney usually does not have to make motions in the appellate court or the lower court. There are times, however, when motion practice is necessary.


An appeal is no place to cut corners. It is an appellate attorney's job to make sure that the appropriate motions are made to ensure that the appellate court has everything necessary to make a meaningful decision on the appeal.


Sometimes a motion must be made to address missing portions of the record or transcripts. Other times a motion to vacate sealing orders must be filed. Other times, a motion seeking injunctive relief is required so that the status quo can remain while the appeal is pending. Appellate attorneys know that the wrinkle with motion practice is that you must know whether to bring the motion in the lower court or the appellate court. 

 

8.     The Best Appellate Attorneys are aware of page limitations.


A skillful appellate attorney knows that courts wants your brief to remain within their stated page limitations. While it is sometimes necessary ask the court for a waiver of this rule, routinely asking the court to exceed page limitations should be avoided. Attorneys experienced in appeals know how to get their point across while adhering to the page limits the court has set. 

 

9.     The Best Appellate Attorneys draft a compelling argument.


This takes time. An experienced appellate attorney knows how to draft a compelling argument. This type of argument weaves the facts and the law together and succinctly explains to the appellate court why its intervention is appropriate. 


A lawyer who does not regularly handle appeals often makes numerous mistakes in drafting the appellate argument. A lawyer should not simply resubmit papers that were filed in the lower court. Another novice mistake is reciting pages upon pages of law with no explanation of how this law relates to the facts of the case on appeal. 


Drafting a compelling argument is skillset that takes years of practice. This is where hiring an experienced appellate attorney is invaluable. 


10.    The Best Appellate Attorneys are prepared for oral argument.


Writing the brief and perfecting the record are important aspects of an appeal, but you also need to prepare for oral argument. Oral argument is where an appellate attorney is questioned by a panel of appellate judges as to the strengths and weaknesses of the case. The judges on the appellate bench have read all the papers and are familar with the portions of the record cited in the briefs. They will often have very tough questions and an appellate attorney needs to be prepared to answer them.


With strict time limitations on oral argument, an appellate attorney knows that you must be prepared to answer any questions as to the law or the facts on your appeal instantly. This requires hours of detailed preparation prior to argument, and failure to prepare for this important stage can be extremely detrimental to your appeal. 


 

Written by:   Alexandra Siskopoulos, Esq. 

Telephone:   (646) 942-1798 

Email:           [email protected] 

 

If you have a civil appeal or criminal appeal and would like to speak with an appellate attorney at Siskopoulos Law Firm, LLP, contact us at either (646) 942-1798 or (617) 959-1628.


Disclaimer: This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Tips for Writing a Great Appellate Brief

Posted on 6 August, 2015 at 13:20 Comments comments (1805)

As appellate attorneys, we know there are certain characteristics of a well-written appellate brief. Certain traits in any great brief are as follows:


1. Keep your paragraphs short. - A judge is like any other person reading a document. You need to keep the judge's attention by writing in short, crisp paragraphs. Do not write meandering, lengthy paragraphs that belong in a personal journal. Like a good book, your appellate brief should be easy to read as well as easy to understand. A good brief is BRIEF!!!


2. Focus on real issues. - A good appellate brief must focus on genuine appealable issues. Specifically, the brief should focus on issues where you have an opportunity to argue that prejudicial error took place at trial. You should not name call the judge or whine about a conspiracy theory. Keep your crisp brief focused on real and jugular issues.


3. Promote fairness. - An appellate judge wants to read a concise, well thought out brief. A judge also only wants to address real issues. In addition, a judge wants to ensure that a FAIR trial took place. As a result, make sure that fairness is a central theme of your appellate brief.


 

Written by:   Alexandra Siskopoulos, Esq.

Telephone:   (646) 942-1798

Email:           [email protected]


 

Disclaimer: This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.


Appellate Attorneys - Avoiding Major Pitfalls after You Lost Your Case

Posted on 23 March, 2015 at 15:00 Comments comments (1210)

As an appellate attorney, all too often I get telephone calls from a litigant who wants to appeal an adverse decision. In a perfect world, all these calls would be simple. A potential client will call and will have preserved his or her appellate rights. Unfortunately, more often than not, this is not the case. 

 

In almost all instances in New York, a Notice of Appeal must be filed within 30 days after Notice of Entry has been served. (As with all things, there are some exceptions which can shorten this deadline). If this document is not filed properly, a litigant loses his or her right to appeal. This is a hard and fast deadline. Unlike in other areas of life, this deadline cannot be ignored if you want to pursue an appeal. 

 

The excuses offered for not filing the Notice of Appeal by potential appellants are ample. The ones I most often hear are as follows: “I just couldn’t afford to appeal it at the time, but now I can;” “After the loss, I just wasn’t emotionally ready to pursue the appeal, but now I’m ready;” “I had no idea that I had to file anything;” and of course, my favorite non-excuse “I’m not worried about it. I’ve been in business for over 20 years and no one is going to hold you to such a tight deadline.”

 

As an appellate attorney, these excuses are not valid excuses for not filing your Notice of Appeal. If this was your reasoning for not pursuing your appeal within the statutory time frame, you have lost your right to appeal. Courts do not care about your state of mind. Courts do not care that you couldn’t afford to hire counsel at the time. They will tell you that you could have pursued the matter pro se. Courts do not care that you did not know that you had file papers. They will tell you that it is your responsibility to know. 

 

Another major hurdle in an appeal is the appellant who files the Notice of Appeal and now has to perfect the appeal by tomorrow. Upon filing the Notice of Appeal in New York, an appellant has either 6 months or 9 months to perfect an appeal. This depends on which department the appeal is being perfected. The reason that you are given months to perfect the appeal is that it takes months to perfect an appeal. No appellate attorney can file papers in one day. No appellate attorney can make a motion for more time in one day. If you wait until the day before you are required to perfect an appeal to contact appellate attorneys, you will miss the deadline to perfect your appeal and will lose your right to appeal your case. 

 

If you do want to proceed with an appeal, you need to make sure you do two things: (1) file and serve your Notice of Appeal within the prescribed deadline: and (2) seek appellate counsel immediately so that your appellate attorney has ample time to perfect the appeal. 

 

Written by:   Alexandra Siskopoulos, Esq. 

Telephone:   (646) 942-1798 

Email:           [email protected] 

 

If you have a civil appeal or criminal appeal and would like to speak with an appellate attorney at Siskopoulos Law Firm, LLP, contact us at either (646) 942-1798 or (617) 959-1628.


Disclaimer: This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Appellate Attorneys Know the Keys to a Good Reply Brief

Posted on 4 March, 2015 at 15:40 Comments comments (1481)

Appellate attorneys understand that a good reply brief is a key ingredient to a winning appeal. It gives you the final say in an appellate manner, and should be used wisely. A smart, effective reply brief focuses on three important items. They are: 

 

1. Counter the major arguments of your opponent. The appellate court reads the briefs in chronological order. The court reads the Appellant’s brief, the Respondent’s brief, and finally the Appellant’s reply brief. As a result, your major job as the appellate attorney is to counter the major arguments of the Respondent’s brief. If you fail to counter your opponent’s arguments, the appellate court will naturally conclude that you have no legal basis for opposing the Respondent’s argument and will likely side with your opponent. Consequently, do not rehash your previous brief on reply, but make certain that the opposition’s points are effectively countered. This is the entire point of a reply brief and this will take considerable time and effort. You will need to download and review the cases cited by your opponent. Make sure the cases cited are accurate and current. Also, make sure that your opponent has not taken literary license with the actual holding of the case. If your opponent mistakenly cited irrelevant, dated law or wrongfully states the actual holding of a case, then you must pounce on this opportunity. Whatever you do, do not assume that your opponent cited good law. I remember one case in which my opponent cited pages of cases for his position and the law had been overturned the previous year. Each and every case cited was bad law and this needed to be addressed in the reply brief. 

 

2. Be the reasonable person in the room. A good appellate writer not only picks apart the opponent’s brief by exposing bad or irrelevant case law, but also illuminates why the opposition’s argument makes poor common sense. The law is not intended to create absurd results. The law has a real purpose – it is to remedy unfairness, create standards to be adhered to, and has real life public policy ramifications. Being the reasonable person in the room lets the court know that you are seeking a reasonable, fair and just result. For instance, you represent a party to a contract that has been breached. In the contract, your client rendered services for advertising services at the cost of $10,000 and is seeking payment of the $10,000. The opposing party paid nothing on the contract and counterclaimed for $10,000,000 on the basis that he thought the advertising would bring in $1,000,000 in revenue to this startup company. The opposing party also argues that he should have the right to take over your client’s advertising company and liquidate its assets because his company is going under. Don’t laugh at the example as there are some absurd arguments made by parties in legal cases. Part of your job in the reply brief is to explain to the court that your client is seeking the reasonable result. The contract explicitly states that your client cannot guaranty any results and that the contract price was for the services and costs for the development of the ad campaign which was fully completed and is still being utilized by the opposing party. Clearly, the opposing party’s demands for $10,000,000 in damages and the takeover of your company is beyond unreasonable. Do not assume that the court will automatically dismiss your opponent’s demands as unreasonable. Many novice attorneys appear in court only to find a judge giving credence to an unreasonable argument made by opposing counsel. The sole reason the argument is given credence is that it was never addressed by the novice attorney who just assumed the court would find the argument absurd. Again, do not make assumptions. Show the court that you are being the reasonable person in the room and address why the other side is being unreasonable. 

 

3. Clarify the facts when your opponent tries to skew them in their favor. No seasoned appellate attorney is shocked when they encounter a Respondent’s brief in opposition that twists and manipulates the facts to suit your opponent’s version of events. As an appellate attorney, you need to know the record inside and out to ensure that the court is presented with a correct version of the facts. Although disfavored by the court, all too often attorneys pick apart the facts using only piecemeal portions of evidence in order to skew the facts in their favor. In the reply brief, the appellate attorney must address any misinformation and/or manipulation of the facts. If this is not done, the court may accept this distorted version of events as the truth and base their decision on this skewed factual scenario. Make sure the court is clear on the true and accurate facts so that they can render the appropriate decision. 

 

These are three very important elements to a good reply brief. Of course there are some additional elements to a good reply brief, but you can’t give away all your secrets. 

 

Written by:   Alexandra Siskopoulos, Esq. 

Telephone:   (646) 942-1798 

Email:           [email protected] 

 

If you have a civil appeal or criminal appeal and would like to speak with an appellate attorney at Siskopoulos Law Firm, LLP, contact us at either (646) 942-1798 or (617) 959-1628.


Disclaimer: This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Appellate Attorneys - How Framing the Issues on Appeal Defines the Battleground

Posted on 11 December, 2014 at 15:45 Comments comments (792)

An appellate attorney knows that in an appellate brief, how you choose to frame the appellate issues is incredibly important. In framing the appellate issues, you are setting forth the parameters of the legal battlefield. It is your job to establish the errors at trial that greatly prejudiced your client. Don’t be overly objective or too legalistic in framing the issues. Your job is to win the case for your client, and consequently frame the issues from his or her legal perspective. Also, do not make the issues overly complicated. 

 

Just as important, is to set the proper standard of review for which a judge forms his decision. That is, there are essentially two legal standards in the appellate world – abuse of discretion and de novo review. The abuse of discretion standard essentially asks whether a judge, within a wide latitude of judgment, properly exercised his discretion. The de novo standard asks whether a judge simply applied the correct law. 

 

In dealing with an abuse of discretion appeal, the appellate court will give great deference to the trial court. A reversal requires a judicial act of egregious proportions. A de novo appeal, on the other hand, simply asks whether a judge was right or wrong in making his decision. 

 

For instance, in State X, a plaintiff must file a motion to dismiss within 60 days of the filing of the initial lawsuit – no exceptions are permitted. The judge finds the lawsuit absolutely frivolous, and entertains a motion filed 95 days after the filing of the initial suit. Subsequently, the motion to dismiss is granted. You correctly argue that the de novo standard of review applies by simply explaining that the defendant failed to file the motion to dismiss within the correct time frame. You also correctly explain that the trial court judge had no discretion to extend the deadline date. The judge applied the law wrong, and applying the de novo standard of review, a reversal is required. 

 

In contrast, let us say a judge allows gruesome photographs at trial of a car accident in which the plaintiff’s left arm is severed and blood is splattered everywhere. You argue the photographs will prejudice the jury. You acknowledge the accident did occur, but that the plaintiff was speeding and that the plaintiff was the proximate cause of the accident – not your client. In any event, the judge allows these game changing photos into evidence. You would need to prove this was an egregious error in order for a reversal to take place in the appellate court. This is a tough hurdle to overcome. 

 

Many trial attorneys when arguing an abuse of discretion appeal will use trial tactics in an attempt to persuade an appellate court to grant a reversal. A trial court attorney will vociferously go into detail on what these photographs depicted. The trial attorney will note that two jurors asked to go to the bathroom after the pictures were introduced into evidence. Essentially, the trial court attorney will make a very powerful argument that the photographs greatly prejudiced the jury and that this was an abuse of the trial court’s discretion. Unfortunately, this argument will lose most of the time. 

 

The key here is to frame the legal issue in the correct manner. You want to make sure that the introduction of the photographs is reviewed under the de novo standard of review. How do you do that when in most instances the introduction of evidence is reviewed under the abuse of discretion standard? Well, you need to do a lot of research and frame the issues properly. After 50 hours of legal research, you find a case entirely on point. The case holds that where the defendant claims no liability, the introduction of gruesome photographs is not permitted. You then frame the issue as follows: The Trial Court did not correctly apply the law in allowing gruesome photographs at trial whereas this court has clearly held that emotionally evocative photographs cannot be introduced at trial in instances where contributory negligence is alleged. You just took away the trial court’s discretion and now have your opponent on the defensive. This was simply done by correctly framing the argument. 

 

In laymen’s terms, you hear that a neighbor was arrested for disciplining his child. Under the abuse of discretion standard, the issue would be framed that a parent has the right to discipline a child. However, in applying a de novo standard of review, the issue would be framed that no parent has the right to hit his child with a belt buckle 47 times causing severe bleeding and scars. As you can see, how the issues are framed defines the battleground on appeal. 

 

Written by:   John V. Siskopoulos, Esq.

Telephone:    (617) 959-1628 

Email:            [email protected] 

 

If you have a civil appeal or criminal appeal and would like to speak with an appellate attorney at Siskopoulos Law Firm, LLP, contact us at either (646) 942-1798 or (617) 959-1628.


Disclaimer: This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

An Appellate Attorney Knows The Statement of Facts Section sets the Tone of the Appellate Brief

Posted on 20 November, 2014 at 16:15 Comments comments (2319)

Many an appellate attorney knows that in an appellate brief, many legal writers solely focus on the legal argument. This is a very important section of the brief. However, a skilled appellate attorney also crafts a powerful and compelling Statement of Facts section in the appellate brief. Without a compelling Statement of Facts section, an appellate judge may not take an active interest in your legal argument and consequently your appeal. This would be fatal to your case. A compelling Statement of Facts section will grab the reader’s attention which will then make the judge an active listener with regard to your appeal. This is a crucial step in the appellate process.

 

Essentially, an appeal is to rectify a wrong. That is the job of an appellate jurist. A wrong cannot be rectified unless you describe how your client has been wronged. This is accomplished by describing your client’s plight in compelling and humanistic terms. Additionally, you must show that your client’s actions were reasonable given the circumstances. For instance, your client moved out of her apartment and refused to pay the rent due to the landlord’s handling of the building’s heat or lack thereof. A poor appellate writer would state the following: “Plaintiff left the apartment after several phone calls to the building management notifying them that the heat was insufficient. After her phone calls went unanswered, the Plaintiff left the apartment and sought a new residence. The terrible conditions were the reason why the Plaintiff left the building in late November.” The aforementioned is a cold recitation ofthe facts. It does not humanize the client or describe her plight to the court.


A better approach would be as follows: “Sandra Jones had to leave her apartment in late November whereas she had no heat for well over 30 days. Ms. Jones made numerous calls to management explaining that the temperature in her apartment was an appalling 40 degrees. The defendant never returned her calls and callously allowed Sandra Jones to suffer in these awful conditions. Ms. Jones even attempted to boil water to keep the conditions bearable in her apartment. Unfortunately, this only led to Ms. Jones scolding herself. Sandra Jones had no other choice, but to leave the freezing apartment which was uninhabitable and inhumane under any reasonable standard.” 

 

In the second and better approach, the client is referred to by her name and not as the Plaintiff. You cannot have a story without a name. The “Plaintiff” is not the beginning of any great story and this cold legal term does not humanize your client. The second version also does not dryly recite facts, but vividly displays the awful conditions your client was suffering. You have created a story and a plight that explains your client’s actions. The second and better approach not only activates the reader, but also shows the reasonableness of your client’s actions. This sets the tone for a sympathetic judge who is now looking to reverse the lower court’s decision. The Statement of Facts section sets the tone for a reversal. Do not overlook this section.

 

Written by:   John V. Siskopoulos, Esq. 

Telephone:   (617) 959-1628 

Email:           [email protected] 

 

If you have a civil appeal or criminal appeal and would like to speak with an appellate attorney at Siskopoulos Law Firm, LLP, contact us at either (646) 942-1798 or (617) 959-1628.


Disclaimer: This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

An Appellate Attorney Knows The Appellate Brief is Intellectual Warfare

Posted on 5 November, 2014 at 13:25 Comments comments (1524)

As appellate attorneys, we have scoured through many appellate briefs filed in the appellate courts throughout this country. Unfortunately, many are poorly written and a terrible work product. The primary reason for this poor work product is that many trial attorneys insist on pursuing their lost cause on appeal. Rather than referring the case to a skillful appellate attorney, some of these trial lawyers attempt to handle the appeal on their own. As a consequence, a poorly written appellate brief is usually submitted, and the client’s appeal is ultimately lost.

 

The primary reason these briefs are poorly written is that many trial lawyers essentially write a rant. He or she is very much angry at the determination in the trial court and this anger echoes throughout the brief. For instance, the trial lawyer is angry with the judge’s ruling on a significant piece of evidence and begins the brief with the argument: “The Judge foolishly ruled in the defendant’s favor. He simply got the law wrong, this prejudiced my client and a new trial is in order.” This type of argument is not a legal argument but is simply a rant. It may appease the client, but this type of argument will not be taken seriously by an appellate court.

 

Rather than potshotting the trial court judge, the skillful appellate attorney begins the argument by stating the trial court “erroneously ruled” or “mistakenly decided” a particular issue. Thereafter, the skillful appellate attorney cites the correct statement of law and how it was misapplied by the trial court. Finally, the experienced appellate attorney shows how the trial court error seriously prejudiced his client and that fairness requires a new trial. 

 

An appellate brief is no place to go on a rant or attack a trial court judge. This is intellectual warfare – it is a skillset of controlled aggression. Appellate attorneys understand that letting your emotions get the best of you can weaken your argument. Just as a prize fighter uses controlled aggression in the ring, the appellate attorney must control his or her aggression in an intellectual argument. The appellate attorney is trying to win an appeal and the prize fighter is trying to win a fight. Both combatants are similar in that they don’t flail their punches, but used controlled aggression to win the fight. 

 

Written by:   Alexandra Siskopoulos, Esq.

Telephone:   (646) 942-1798

Email:           [email protected] 

 

Disclaimer: This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Why An Appellate Attorney Knows the Importance of the Record on Appeal

Posted on 26 June, 2014 at 15:10 Comments comments (1974)

A good appellate attorney is very much aware that an appellate court is bound by the record on appeal. That is, the appellate court, also known as the reviewing court, can only review what evidence and issues were presented to the trial court. A good appellate attorney knows that an appellate court is not a forum to retry your failed case based on new facts and new issues. That is why an appellate attorney is always happy to see when a good trial attorney preserves the record on appeal. 

 

The record on appeal is of vital importance in an appeal as it informs the appellate court of the critical issues that were contested at trial or on a dispositive motion in the trial court. Upon reviewing these preserved appellate issues, the appellate court will decide if the trial court correctly decided the matter. If your trial attorney did not contest these issues, then you did not preserve the record. Consequently, your chances of winning on appeal are exceptionally limited as the appellate attorney’s hands become tied due to the fact that he or she is limited to arguments preserved in the appellate record. 

 

Assuming your attorney correctly preserved the record, a good appellate attorney must then skillfully present the record on appeal to the appellate court. A skillfully presented record on appeal narrows the contested issues on appeal for the appellate court. An appellate court does not want a voluminous record on appeal. What the appellate court does want is a record that clearly shows what issues are contested and that they were properly preserved. Thus, it is your job as an appellate attorney to ensure that the record compiled for the appeal is focused and streamlined. 

 

Do not waste your time and the appellate court’s time by compiling a ridiculously voluminous record. This will unnecessarily test the appellate court’s patience and detract from the important issues that the court should resolve. Like a good appellate brief, the record should be crisp and to the point. A focused record on appeal along with a focused appellate brief is the formula to a winning appeal. 

 

Written by:   Alexandra Siskopoulos, Esq. 

Telephone:   (646) 942-1798 

Email:           [email protected] 

 

Disclaimer: This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

How an Appellate Attorney Formulates a Good Legal Argument

Posted on 23 June, 2014 at 14:45 Comments comments (1336)

As any appellate attorney knows, a good legal argument should focus on the law also known as legal precedent. Yet, this should not be the entire focus of your appellate brief. Your appellate brief should also focus on the argument that a just result takes place. A considerate and fair tribunal, also known as the appellate judges, would want to see that a fair and equitable result be effectuated. Thus, your legal argument should not only focus on the law, but also that a just and fair result be the ultimate order of the court.

 

To exemplify this point, here is an example of how an argument for a fair and equitable result would play out outside of an appellate forum. Let’s pretend that there is an eviction proceeding taking place in state XYZ. You represent the tenant in an eviction proceeding. State XYZ has a statute that states that no eviction proceeding can proceed without proof that the tenant was served via certified mail giving the tenant 60 days’ notice of the eviction proceeding. The landlord is claiming that he notified the tenant of the eviction proceeding sixty days earlier, however, the landlord failed to notify the tenant pursuant to statutory law. Specifically, the landlord failed to produce any evidence that a certified letter had been sent within the sixty day time frame. Your client argues that she was only notified of the eviction within 15 days of the eviction date via regular mail. As proof, your client brings evidence of the letter sent only 15 days prior to the actual eviction date. Clearly the law and the evidence is on your client’s side.

 

This should be a no brainer legal argument and a legal victory should be in your sights. However, an appellate attorney knows that you should also focus on the equitable results of the judge’s decision. For example, your client is a single mother due to the fact that her husband died in Iraq 3 years ago and that their 3 kids would be removed from their home of over 10 years. Your client did fail to pay the rent for 2 months but this was due to your client’s son needing special treatment that was not covered by her HMO. Essentially, your client was required to forgo the rent to save her son’s life. Luckily, the surgery was successful. This helps the court to understand that your client was facing a dire circumstance and this coupled with the landlord failing to adhere to the statutory law would equal an unjust result.

 

Your client now has the necessary funds to pay her rent and plans to do so for the next decade. As a result, it would be incredibly unfair and unjust to evict your client due to extraordinary and unforeseen circumstances. Additionally, your client is willing to pay the past due rent and an additional one month rent to show her good faith to the court and her landlord of 10 years. In the above example, the law was clearly in your favor whereas the landlord did not have sufficient proof to establish that he properly notified the tenant of the eviction. Moreover, you had conclusive proof that the service filed was improper and contrary to statutory law. Nevertheless, an appellate attorney knows that the equitable argument that a just result be decided is just as important and just as necessary as the argument that notice was improper. The fact that your client is a widow with 3 kids and lived in the apartment for 10 years was an important argument to make.

 

Thus, anyone making a legal argument would be wise to remember what good appellate attorneys do in formulating a legal argument – argue the law forcefully, but do not forget to argue that justice must be served by the court rendering a decision that dictates that the parties receive a fair and just result.

 

Written by:   Alexandra Siskopoulos, Esq. 

Telephone:   (646) 942-1798 

Email:           [email protected] 

 

Disclaimer: This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.