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OSB Legal Publications has once again been recognized for our commitment to publishing quality legal resources. We received an award for a book we released in 2014.
The Association for Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA) has selected Appeal and Review: Beyond the Basics as the winner of its ACLEA’s Best Award of Outstanding Achievement in Publications. The physical award will be presented at ACLEA’s Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois in August and put on display in the lobby of the OSB Center.
Of course, Legal Pubs couldn’t have created this highly informative and innovative book without the help of our many volunteer editorial board members (in bold) and authors: Hon. Erika L. Hadlock; Edward J. Harri; Hon. Virginia L. Linder; James N. Westwood; Jerome Lidz; R. Daniel Lindahl; George W. Kelly; Erin Galli; Thomas W. Brown; Roy Pulvers; Hon. Erin C. Lagesen; Rolf Moan; Janet M. Schroer; Marjorie A. Speirs; Hon. Meagan A. Flynn; William F. Gary; Hon. Joel S. DeVore; Hon. Jack L. Landau; James W. Nass. Thanks to all of you for your hard work and dedication to this volunteer effort.
Appeal and Review: Beyond the Basics explores several areas of appellate practice and jurisprudence in greater depth than its companion volume, Appeal and Review: The Basics (OSB Legal Pubs 2010). The first introductory chapter provides thoughts on the convergence of theory and practice. In chapter 2, the authors discuss the principles that serve as the basis for familiar rules of appellate practice, including rules related to preservation, standards of review, and harmless error. The authors then explain how those principles should influence a lawyer’s analysis of whether to appeal or seek judicial review, balancing client considerations like the expense of appeal, the likelihood of prevailing, delay, and the possibility of having to pay the respondent’s attorney fees. The chapter 3 authors discuss the art of drafting appellate briefs, covering everything from appropriate structure to techniques for making briefs helpful and persuasive to appellate judges. Chapter 4 addresses oral argument from both sides of the bench, focusing on goals that all participants often do—and should—have for oral arguments. Both chapters 3 and 4 touch on the differences between practicing in the Oregon Court of Appeals and practicing in the Oregon Supreme Court. Finally, chapter 5 provides a comprehensive explanation of motion practice in both courts. All chapters reflect contemporary practices built on longstanding Oregon tradition.
Appeal and Review: Beyond the Basics is available on BarBooks™ to all Oregon Bar members or for purchase in print at the Bar’s online bookstore.
Excerpted from Appeal and Review: Beyond the Basics (OSB Legal Pubs 2014), chapter 4 Effective Oral Advocacy.
By William F. Gary, Hon. Joel S. DeVore, Hon. Erica L. Hadlock, and Hon. Jack L. Landau
The Judges’ Goals for Oral Argument
On any court, judges hold a wide variety of views about the utility of oral argument. Some judges say it rarely influences how they vote to decide a case; others report that it affects their decisions in a significant minority of cases argued. Still other judges believe that argument rarely shifts their vote on the ultimate outcome, but acknowledge that how the parties frame the issues during oral argument often influences the way in which the judges write opinions. What happens during a court of appeals argument certainly can affect the court’s decision whether to affirm a lower court’s or agency’s decision without published opinion (AWOP) or to write an opinion in the case.
Some common themes do emerge in conversations with judges about what they hope to accomplish during oral argument. Judges view argument as their sole opportunity to question the advocates—to engage in a dialogue with the lawyers instead of merely being on the receiving end of the lawyers’ monologues. Because of that, and because 15 minutes go by so quickly, judges may not allow lawyers much time to deliver prepared arguments—which too frequently are only variations on the monologues already delivered in the briefs—before the judges start asking questions.
A primary goal that judges have in questioning lawyers is to clarify what the parties are arguing, in the most basic sense. Before the judges start evaluating the merits of the parties’ arguments, they need to understand what those arguments are. For example, the judges want to know exactly which trial-court rulings the appellant is challenging, and on precisely what grounds. If the appellant’s brief is vague, ambiguous, or internally inconsistent in that respect, judges are likely to ask clarifying questions before they address the substance of the appellant’s arguments.
Court of appeals judges also may not immediately dive into the merits of a case if the briefs have not made clear what issues are properly before the court, and by what standards the appellate judges will review the lower court’s rulings on those issues. If the briefs leave the court with questions about whether arguments were preserved for appeal, or what standards of review apply, judges are likely to use argument time to clarify those points.
In addition, court of appeals judges may ask questions related to their general desire to resolve cases in the most straightforward way possible, without addressing more issues than is necessary (a desire that is grounded both in jurisprudential principles and in workload concerns). Judges sometimes refer to this as looking for the “first principled door out” of a case. Accordingly, judges may ask questions aimed at clarifying how the various arguments presented in a party’s brief relate to each other. Essentially, the judges are trying to picture the flowchart that shows the relationships between all of those arguments, with the hope of discerning the simplest path from one end of the chart (the assignments of error) to the other (disposition of the appeal). If those analytic pathways are not clearly described in the brief, the judges probably will ask questions on that point.
Beyond clarifying the contours of the parties’ arguments and how they interrelate, judges view oral argument as a time to explore the strengths and weaknesses of those arguments. By asking probing questions, the judges intend to give each lawyer an opportunity to make the best case possible for his or her client. Judges may want to know how a party’s arguments can be reconciled with (or distinguished from) existing case law, or if the party can prevail only if some precedent is overruled. In a case that centers on statutory interpretation, judges might ask how a lawyer’s proposed construction of a particular provision makes sense in the context of the statutory scheme as a whole. Or a judge might ask a hypothetical question designed to reveal whether a lawyer’s argument remains sound when pushed to its logical conclusion. In all of those circumstances, the judge’s goal is to make sure that the lawyers have been confronted with any potential weaknesses in their arguments and have had a fair chance to respond.
Practice Tip: Because the judges will have read the briefs before argument, experienced oral advocates generally spend little time repeating the points they’ve already made in their briefs. Instead, they focus on responding to their opponent’s arguments. Indeed, some of the most compelling oral arguments are those in which the lawyers start by acknowledging their opponents’ strongest points and then making their best arguments in response.
Judges also use oral argument as an opportunity to explore the implications of the positions that the parties advocate. In resolving a case, judges must decide whether to publish an opinion (instead of AWOP a case in which the lower court’s judgment will be affirmed) and, if they do issue a written opinion, must consider how that published discussion of the law will affect future cases. Those concerns often prompt judges to ask big-picture questions of the lawyers that go beyond the details of the particular case at issue. Thus, if a lawyer’s argument is focused mostly on the pertinent facts and the outcome the lawyer advocates, a judge might ask the lawyer what legal principle would lead to that desired result. Indeed, some judges will ask lawyers to articulate the rules of law they think the court should announce in its opinions.
In addition to helping judges better understand the parties’ arguments and their implications, oral argument also gives appellate judges an opportunity to get the benefit of their colleagues’ thoughts. Because the court of appeals sits in three-judge panels, each judge is able to listen to exchanges that might not have occurred if that judge were the only one asking questions. Many judges go into argument with the goal of breaking out of any “tunnel vision” or “bubbled thinking” they may have developed around the issues in a case.
In preparation for the upcoming release of the 2014 edition of Appeal and Review: Beyond the Basics, we decided to share a couple of blogs and websites related to appellate practice. We do not endorse any of the blogs or guarantee the accuracy of the information contained in them; the court websites we think are fairly reliable.
OSB Appellate Practice Section —
— This blog, published by the OSB Appellate Practice Section, is periodically updated with posts on a variety of topics of interest to appellate practitioners. Recent articles include a review of significant 2013 appellate decisions, a story about the Oregon Supreme Court building’s 100th birthday, and a notice about new appellate filing fees that took effect in October 2013. It also includes a digital version of the Appellate Almanac that the section previously published in hard copy.
Oregon Courts / Oregon Judicial Department —http://courts.oregon.gov/OJD/Pages/index.aspx
— This is the official website of the Oregon Courts, with links to the Oregon Court of Appeals and Oregon Supreme Court websites. This site is an essential resource for appellate practitioners. On this website you will find a plethora of information, including Oregon eCourt information, rules and fees for appellate courts, forms, the Oregon Appellate Courts Style Manual (http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/Style%20Manual%202002.pdf), and more.
United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit —
— This is the official website of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, with a plethora of information about this court, including calendars, news (including judicial appointments), cases of interest, and more.
— This frequently-updated blog is sponsored by Bloomberg Law and includes news articles on the status of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as status posts regarding cases up for oral argument, pending petitions, recent decisions, and more. You can even sign up for their Twitter feeds from the blog.
Notice of Appeal: Stoel Rives’ Appellate Practice Blog —
— This blog is published by the law firm of Stoel Rives LLP and focuses on reviews of case decisions. Although it deal primarily with Washington state appellate cases, it does include some articles on Oregon cases.