So I have returned from vacation in various climes, including the UK. Here's a jeopardy-trivial pursuit question – I spent Halloween in, from a literary perspective, the happening place to be that day – the city was Goth central, with the streets crowed with folks in black mascara and chains, along with Victorian costumes. Can you name the city and explain its links to the dark side?
Back to the appellate world.
1. While I was gone, PA signed up to participate in the VLP appellate pro bono project. Cliff Ruprecht will be spearheading our effort, and I look forward to being a part of it. What's going to be interesting for me to see is the state of the records in the projects we take on. Here at PA, when I do an appeal of litigation that originated at the firm, I either have participated at the trial level directly to make sure the record is the best it can be for appellate purposes, or the litigator-agency practitioner has performed this task his or herself. The state of the record can often make or break an appeal, because that's the raw material to work with – that box, the record below. So we shall see.
2. Friday I participated in PA's 18th annual CLE program in Augusta, with my topic When to Appeal. I was very happy with the subject matter, because it's usually given short shrift in appellate conferences, although it's one of the most important aspects of any appeal. Often appellate practitioners earn their keep in ways never seen by the court, i.e. by explaining why not to appeal. A lawyer with experience who focuses on appellate law should be able to give a client a fair idea of the chances of prevailing (within the realm of reason), and an even better idea of the costs. These skills are probably as important as the appellate practitioners' maximization of the chances of prevailing if the decision is made to go ahead.
3. Yesterday I participated in the University of Maine Law School's Trilateral Moot Court competition, in which teams of students from the law school compete with teams from two Canadian law schools, presenting two issues of an appeal on each side for a total of 40 minutes a side plus a 5 minute rebuttal (it would be nice to get as much time in an SJC or First Circuit appeal … I can dream, can't I?). I was judging on a panel with Justices Dana and Horton (once I again I was the pair of brown shoes in a closet of tuxedos). I've judged in this competition before and it's a lot of fun because they always pick interesting topics (this year it was the extraterritorial applicability of the 4th-6th amendments and the Canadian equivalent), and I always learn interesting things, not just about Canadian law but how to improve my own work. The students are always far more poised than I was at that stage of my career, and the comments from the other judges on the panel are always useful to me.
4. Finally, I bumped into Professor Nancy Wanderer at Whole Foods the other day (how PC), and after we commiserated on the election, she mentioned that a major overhaul of the Uniform Maine Citations may be in the offing – to expand it to be a research guide as well. More to come on that.
As I began, I will end with another piece of trivia. One of my vacation stops was Williamsburg, which I had never visited before, including a stop in the Colonial courtroom. Do you know the most common criminal offense in those days? Gossiping. Hmmmmm….