Saturday, June 6, 2015

Seventh Circuit Judges Share Tips for Focusing Issues on Appeal

By Charlie Ingrassia
Associate, Adler Murphy & McQuillen LLP

Chief Judge Wood, Judge Sykes, Judge Hamilton
 and ALA President Steve Pflaum enjoy a
lighter moment during the panel discussion.
On May 28, 2015, the Association gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago to host its annual roundtable luncheon honoring the Judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Many of the judges from the Seventh Circuit were in attendance, as well as a number of special guests, which guests included judges from the Illinois judiciary and Michael Dreeben, Deputy Solicitor General at the United States Department of Justice.

Association Vice President Michael
Scodro and Seventh Circuit Executive
Collins T. Fitzpatrick.
Association President Steven F. Pflaum began the festivities by offering welcoming remarks, as ALA members and guests enjoyed lunch. Attendees had the unique opportunity to sit at a table with an individual Seventh Circuit judge, and were able to engage in casual conversation as well as inquire about practice pointers. 

Thereafter, Chief Judge Diane P. Wood along with Judges Diane S. Sykes and David F. Hamilton participated in a panel discussion. President Pflaum moderated the discussion, which addressed how appellate attorneys can focus issues on appeal. Chief Judge Wood noted that this was a "painful part" of appellate practice and urged appellate practitioners to take a careful look at what occurred at the trial court and the standard of review. Judge Sykes reiterated Chief Judge Wood's suggestion to look at the standard of review, which Judge Sykes noted is often decisive, and also encouraged attorneys to consider whether a trial court error was "an error of consequence." Judge Hamiliton offered the helpful reminder that attorneys on appeal should make sure that the any objection was preserved.

The panel discussed a number of other topics, including how many issues should typically be raised on appeal. The panel agreed that three to five issues should be the "rule of thumb."  Judge Hamilton noted that the district court judges are "usually good" and unlikely to make 10 to 12 errors, and Judge Sykes later quipped, "nine grounds for reversal usually means none." The panel also offered tips for oral argument from both the appellants' and appellee's perspective. Chief Judge Wood noted that, if the district court wrote a sound opinion, "don't overlook this gift."
Past ALA President Michael Rathsack,
Paul Berks, and ALA Secretary Joanne Driscoll.

The ALA thanks the judges of the Seventh Circuit for an enjoyable and informative luncheon, as well as the many guests who attended.

DISCLAIMER: The Appellate Lawyers Association does not provide legal services or legal advice. Discussions of legal principles and authority, including, but not limited to, constitutional provisions, statutes, legislative enactments, court rules, case law, and common-law doctrines are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.