Few Maryland lawyers are accustomed to advance notice of which judges will be deciding their appeal. The Fourth Circuit and the Court of Special Appeals have traditionally kept the identities of three-judgment panels secret until the morning of argument. But the Court of Special Appeals will now be announcing panels 7 to 10 days before argument.
That lead time gives counsel an opportunity to make productive or counter-productive use of that information. In this post, I address what you must do, should do, and should not do when you learn who is on your three-judge panel. Read More…
By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)
At this year’s bar convention, I took the opportunity to thank Senior Judge Irma Raker for something she did 12 years ago. When I lost the first Court of Appeals case that I argued, Judge Raker wrote a short solo dissent. It meant a lot to me as a young associate, having entered argument feeling like I would win, to know I’d convinced at least one judge.
There are a many different reasons why appellate judges write dissents or refrain from writing them. From a private practitioner’s standpoint, I tell judges that dissents are a powerful way to improve attorney-client relationships. Read More…
Appellate practitioners continuously debate the relative value of oral argument. Although most practitioners—and many appellate judges—agree that the quality of appellate briefing matters much more than the quality of oral advocacy, opinions vary considerably on how much oral argument helps. Some contend that oral argument is more trouble than it is worth. Others disagree, believing that oral argument not only often separates winning and losing on appeal but also increases everyone’s faith in the justice system. Both sides of the debate have some good points; I won’t try to declare a winner here.
One fact beyond debate is that federal appellate courts are holding significantly fewer oral arguments. Read More…
If you’re on Twitter, you may have come across the campaign by Jack Metzler (@SCOTUSplaces) to convince attorneys and judges to use a new parenthetical. Metzler has found remarkable success in a short time, and that success is now official in Maryland.[*]
Two reported opinions of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, released on Friday and Monday, included the parenthetical “(cleaned up)” at the end of a citation and dropped a footnote to explain this strange new creature. Read More…
We mourn the loss of Judge Howard S. Chasanow, a former judge on the Court of Appeals of Maryland, who died on April 2. I had the privilege to hear Judge Chasanow speak in October 2014 at the portrait and chief judge transition ceremony for his wife, Judge Deborah K. Chasanow, a senior judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Judge Chasanow joked about his wife’s aversion to the spotlight, even at an event held in her honor. “It’s hard to give speeches about people who won’t let you talk about them,” he quipped. That night, Judge Chasanow displayed the same charm that many lawyers had come to admire.
Anyone who has clerked for a judge knows that a special bond develops during that relationship. For a budding attorney, a clerkship provides one of the first opportunities to gain insights into the practice of law. The perspective of a judge can form a strong foundation for a law clerk’s future pursuit of a law practice. I had the good fortune to serve as a law clerk to the Hon. Rosalyn B. Bell when she sat on the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland. With her passing in August, and a memorial service in October, it seemed like a good time to reflect on the impact she had on her clerks, the legal profession, and the practice of law.
British playwright Noel Coward memorably observed that coming across a footnote is like going downstairs to answer the doorbell while making love. Although this quip has left my mind’s eye with an image it can’t un-see every time I consider dropping a footnote, it has not banished footnotes from my legal writing. But the vivid quote and a recent Maryland federal-court opinion have prompted me to consider more carefully when and when not to use footnotes.
By John Grimm
I recently posted about appeals in District Court of Maryland cases, including lesser-known appellate options. Maryland also allows for an unusual type of appeal from circuit court decisions — the in banc appeal. Article 4, § 22 of the Maryland Constitution allows, with some exceptions, a party who loses “any trial conducted by less than three Circuit Judges,” to request review “in banc” (and yes, for the pedantically inclined, the term of art is “in banc,” not the more common “en banc”) by three circuit court judges, in lieu of an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals.
By John Grimm
One of the challenges of a criminal practice in the Maryland District Court is deciding how best to position your client for appeal. A typical day in the District Court can be a busy, if not hectic, affair, requiring lawyers to wrangle witnesses, work out plea deals, examine discovery, and, not uncommonly, meet and interview their clients for the first time. Although it can be hard to devote attention to preserving appellate issues, or even thinking about appellate strategy, the District Court’s unique jurisdictional status presents both appellate risks and benefits, and, during your trial preparation, it’s worth giving a little thought to what you’d want your criminal appeal to look like.
In Luis v. United States, a fractured Supreme Court found that, in a prosecution for Medicare fraud, the federal government could not freeze untainted assets needed to retain defense counsel. The vote alignment was unusual, and none of the four opinions commanded a majority. The opinion drawing the most attention is Justice Kagan’s solo dissent, which Ian Millhiser has called “the most interesting opinion the Court has handed down this year.” That dissent, read together with a prior opinion on pretrial seizures, sends an important message to the criminal defense bar – go big or go home. Read More…