Always thinking about you and devising unique reading and viewing experiences for our audience, Illinois Appellate Lawyer Blog announces a new series:
♪♪♪ Two Tips ♪♪♪
Two Tips, offered by legal writing and strategy experts, will suggest ways you can improve your brief writing. The tips will be in various formats – written, podcast, video, extra sensory perception, Vulcan mind meld.
Two Tips will appear at random times according to a strict schedule. If you have two tips that might interest Illinois Appellate Lawyer Blog readers and viewers, shoot me an email and we’ll make arrangements for you to appear, or write, or sing, or however you want to transmit the information.
We start now.
These two tips are from Ken Abraham. Ken has been practicing law since 1970. He was an associate judge in DuPage County, Illinois for 15 years. Ken is in private practice now and is a mock judge on the Appellatology panel. You can see a fuller bio for Ken here.
Carefully review the trial court’s ruling, whether oral or written. Some judges say things just to placate the unsuccessful party. Others comment for the sake of appellate review to try to establish that they have considered all the law and evidence. Often a misstep is made.
One example is reciting the wrong burden of proof, or using words like “it is clear,” thus suggesting (unintentionally) that the judge employed a clear-and-convincing standard when it’s not applicable.
Pay close attention to what the trial judge does not state. Sometimes a key point goes unmentioned. Early in my judicial career I wrote an opinion in a divorce case. After affirming on all other grounds, the appellate court stated it was not sure if I had considered the benefit to the husband of the use of the use of a business vehicle.
In fact I had considered it, but I did not mention it is my ruling. The appellate court adjusted the final numbers. I’m certain that change would not have been made had I been more thorough in my written opinion.
Remember the old saying: Trial courts look for justice. Appellate courts look for error.