The late Jack Webb, who played Sgt. Joe Friday on “Dragnet,” is perhaps best remembered for uttering this famous line: “Just the facts, ma’am.” (Actually, according to Wikipedia, he actually said, “”All we want are the facts.”) Whatever the line, appellate advocates would do well to ignore Sgt. Friday’s focus on the facts when they argue before an appellate tribunal.
Which is more important: The appellate brief or oral argument? Without question, the brief is more important. Don’t take my word; listen to Chief Justice John Roberts:
If you want to know what six present and past justices of the Connecticut Supreme Court think about effective appellate advocacy, follow this link to the Judicial Interview Project of the CBA’s Appellate Advocacy Section.
Over the past several years, section members (including yours truly) have interviewed some of our state’s most distinguished appellate jurists about the qualities that go into good appellate briefs and oral arguments. The justices were incredibly generous with their time and spoke with complete candor. These interviews are “must see TV” for any lawyer who appears before any appellate court. And thanks to the pro bono efforts of Brandon Smith Reporting, transcripts of the interviews are also available.
Deciding which issues to present on appeal is one of the most important decisions an appellate lawyer must make. Here are some thoughts on the right way (and the wrong way) to select issues.