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Sharing appellate tips and knowledge


 A few weeks ago, I drove up to San Jose and spoke before about 90 attorneys attending the 2012 Belli Seminar, which was presented by the Santa Clara County Trial Lawyers Association.  I selected about 10 tips from my book and gave a short presentation to these attorneys on what they must do at the trial level to protect my appeals.  I was very flattered to be asked to speak along with a panel of some great trial lawyers, such as John Burris, Rick Simons, Lawrance Bohn, and Alejandro Blanco, among others.  Yes, I know it's a long drive from Laguna Beach, but I thought it was well worth it.

 One thing that struck me was how these trial attorneys focus on a theme in a case.  One attorney said that every case he tries is really about corporate greed.  Another said that he focuses on what happened to the plaintiffs, while another focused on making the jury feel that if it didn't stop the defendant, such misconduct could happen to them or others they might love.  Within those general themes, one could easily discover more specific themes.

Appeal are not much different.  We also have themes, but we also have grounds for appeal that we want to present to the trial court.  How does one find a theme in a case?  Well, what resonates about the case with you?  It might be a sense of unfairness, intolerance, or bureaucratic nightmares that deprive people of justice.   One question to ask might be why can't the plaintiff find justice?  An interesting way to develop a theme is to tell the story of your client's case to laypeople, not attorneys, and listen to their reactions.  What strikes them the most about the case?  What outrage do they experience and on what points?  My feeling is that justices might react the same way.  

Call me an optimist, but I believe that most judges want to do the right thing and want to be just.  We just have to present our appeals in such a way that there is only one way to do it.