Appellate Expertise at Crabtree & Auslander
Both trial lawyers and their clients are best served by bringing in an appellate specialist if the case is going to be appealed,” says Crabtree, who is board certified in appellate practice by The Florida Bar. “In the most significant cases, it is wise to do so as early as possible –to help ensure that potential issues for appeal are preserved or avoided.
Appellate work is most assuredly not the recycling of trial level points and authorities. Of course, the orientation of trial work and appellate work is obviously different, but that is only the beginning of the differences that come immediately to mind.
For better or worse, appellate briefs receive greater judicial scrutiny than trial level points and authorities, because three judges (or maybe seven) will read them, not just one judge. The judges will also work under comparatively less time pressure, and will therefore be able to study the attorney’s “work product” more closely. They will also have more staff (there are fewer research attorneys per judge at the trial level) to help them identify errors in counsel’s reasoning, misstatements of law and mis-citations of authority, and to do original research to uncover ideas and authorities that counsel may have missed, or decided not to bring to the court’s attention.
Additionally, because there is no “horizontal stare decisis” within the Court of Appeal, intermediate appellate court precedent that might otherwise be binding on a trial court is not absolutely binding on a different panel of the appellate court. So, in appropriate and rare cases, appellate court precedent is open for reexamination and critical analysis. Along the same lines, appellate counsel must necessarily be more acutely aware of how a given case fits within the overall framework of a given area of law, so as to be able to anticipate whether any resulting opinion will be published, and what effect counsel’s position will have on the common law as it is continuously developed.
Then there is the simple matter of page limitations. Appellate courts are more liberal than trial courts as to the number of pages counsel are allowed. Granted, the extra length of the “briefs” in appellate and reviewing courts is not always a good thing, but the difference does mean that appellate counsel will have much more freedom to explore the contours and implications of the respective legal positions of the parties. Part of that exploration may mean additional research that trial counsel simply will not have had time to do.
Finally, because the orientation in appellate courts is on whether the trial court committed a prejudicial error of law, the appellate practitioner is on occasion likely to stumble into areas implicating some of the great ideas of jurisprudence, with the concomitant need for additional research and analysis that takes a broader view of the relevant legal authorities. The instant case is a perfect example, involving as it does the complex interrelationship between the parol evidence rule and the statute of frauds, and the limits placed by the statute of frauds on the concept of incorporation by reference.
The upshot of these considerations is that appellate practice entails rigorous original work in its own right. The appellate practitioner who takes trial level points and authorities and, without reconsideration or additional research, merely shovels them in to an appellate brief, is producing a substandard product. Rather than being a rehash of trial level points and authorities, the appellate brief offers counsel probably their best opportunity to craft work of original, professional, and, on occasion, literary value.”
In re Marriage of Shaban, (2001) 88 Cal. App. 4th 398, 409 (citations and footnote omitted).