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Why Maryland Appellate Courts Should Send Focus Letters Before Oral Arguments

By Derek Stikeleather

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 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…

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#AppellateTwitter’s “cleaned up” craze hits Maryland

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

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…

Remembering Judge Howard S. Chasanow

By Brandon Moore

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.

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Remembering a Mentor

By Karen Federman Henry

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.

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On Love-Making, Regrets, and Footnotes in Appellate Briefs

By Derek Stikeleather

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.

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Save time and money by appealing in banc

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.

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Yes, appeal options matter in state District Court

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.

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Justice Kagan tells criminal defense bar to go big or go home

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

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…

During “March Madness,” think about constructing your litigation teams

By Brad McCullough

The NCAA basketball tournament – more commonly referred to as “March Madness” – is upon us. It’s one of the year’s most beloved sporting events, replete with dramatic comebacks, stunning upsets, and marvelous individual performances delivered in the national spotlight and under intense pressure. Teams that achieve success during the tournament, and have a chance at enjoying that “one shining moment,” must be carefully constructed. They must strike the right balance. Those teams need shooters and passers, big players who thrive down low “in the paint,” quick players who attack on the perimeter, and both defensive specialists and offensive whizzes.

Similar care should be given when building a litigation team. A good team obviously needs at least one lawyer who possesses excellent trial skills. Someone who can cross-examine opposing witnesses, can deliver compelling jury arguments, and can develop a persuasive trial strategy.

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Preservation Overrides the First Amendment

By Karen Federman Henry

 The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects a tapestry of expression in our society, including speech, association, art, dance, attire, and music. Few exceptions exist, and when they do they are extreme—obscenity and incitement to riot are never protected, although the line does not always appear to be bright and clear. The Court of Special Appeals recently reminded us of a much simpler exception to the protection in Thana v. Board of License Commissioners for Charles County, Ct. Spec. App., Sept. Term 2014, No. 1981 (January 29, 2016): when the First Amendment issue is not preserved for appellate review.

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