I have been busy busy and derelict in reporting, but the Maine SJC just came down with three decisions, all interesting from an appellate perspective (one relating to the ever fascinating world of 80Bs), so I must get back to discussing those and other recent decisions. But first, let's briefly look at the appellate calendar, past and future.
1. I had an argument with the SJC this month, on their annual road tour. I've reported about this event before, and last year I was a moderator at one. Mine took place this year at Lisbon High School. What struck me from the arguer's perspective is how little you pay attention to the different atmospherics – it's an argument, and you focus on it like any other argument. What struck me from the perspective of someone in the audience, both last year and this year, is how good CJ Saufley is at asking a question in a way that both sets the stage for the students and presents her issue to the lawyer. This is no easy feat. The key is to cut to the chase fast – there's no time for a lot of explanation before asking a question in a 15 minute argument. But she was able to do it multiple times – ask her question with just a brief intro that did the trick. I think perhaps a part of her ability to do that comes from the fact that often when she asks a question generally, she is distilling what the big picture issue about that case is for her, and briefly setting the stage to ask that question to the lawyer. It's a similar, if not identical exercise – providing a quick predicate to a basic, perhaps decisive question. It's also, incidentally, the best type of question to get in any oral argument — even better than the lovely softball, because it's achieving exactly what argument is all about – answering the questions that matter to the decision-maker. Judge Selya does this a lot too – he identifies exactly what his issue is in deciding the case and asks his question based upon it.
As to future events:
1. The next 1st Circuit practitioner lunch meeting with Judge Lipez is Nov. 17, 2011 in Portland. These are always educational. I don't know why more people don't come to these – in particular lawyers who engage in the criminal appeals. Perhaps they are all relying on my whiz bang reporting, which I shall try to do again. Check with the MSBA for details.
2. The week of Nov. 7 I am going to the AJEI 2011 Summit in DC. The usual go-to appellate conferences are the twice annual AAAL meetings, for members, and the bi-annual DRI conference for anyone who wants to go (next June 21 in Boston – calendar it now). The ABA's appellate section meetings can be a little different, because they are geared for both practictioners and judges, so sometimes I find the information not really relevant to my practice. But the agenda at this meeting they are holding Nov. 10-13 looks absolutely fantabulous. E.g., it starts Thursday afternoon with a conversation with Justice Sotomayer. Paul Clement, among others, including a 6th Circuit judge, then talk about how to prepare for argument. There's an annual past Supreme Court review from Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, a 4-judge panel discussion about judicial decisionmaking, Scott Turow is a lunch speaker, there's a nifty reenactment of the Burr treason trial with Judge Sentelle among others, a preview of the current Supreme Court term with Clement and Drew Days, who's always great, and discussions of the relationship between appellate and trial counsel, how to build an appellate practice, the ever important ethics session, and breakout sessions on paperless courts and the appellate brief, with a Ninth Circuit and state Supreme Court judge. That's not everything — and it's fairly cheap as these things go. Yikes. Again, your intrepid reporter will give you the full skinny – but this one looks like it's worth the money to go yourself if you can.