Friday, June 5, 2009
Our luncheon speaker was Justice Ann McClure of the 8th Court of Appeals in El Paso. After having mingled with the group since the evening before, she had an excellent sense of her audience!
Justice McClure spoke on "Appellate Advocacy from a Judge's Point of View" and offered several examples from briefs her court has received to demonstrate both effective and ineffective writing. She discussed understanding audience (including staff attorneys and law clerks), selecting and framing issues (hint: use a rifle, not a shotgun), and then offered a series of tips that caused me to have flashbacks to the student briefs I had graded just a few weeks ago:
Refer to the parties by name, shortened version, or acronym rather than Appellant or Appellee.
Avoid saying that "Smith" is shorthand for Smith [John Smith ("Smith") petitions the court for relief].
Use short sentences and short paragraphs.
Use active rather than passive voice.
Don’t embed long quotations in text.
Her talk continued in that vein--filled with great teaching examples that colorfully (and perhaps sadly) demonstrated that the lessons we teach either weren't the lessons of previous generations or were not heeded. Sigh.
After her presentation she took questions until 55 minutes before her flight was scheduled to depart, at which point I politely cut her off and headed her to the door with Dale Jones from Tech's LP program, who escorted her out to a big round of applause and our thanks for an enlightening and entertaining program.
And we still had the rest of the afternoon to go!