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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ind. Courts - IBA Appellate Roundtable with Justice Rucker and Chief Judge Vaidik

Commentary by Joel Schumm, professor at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law

IBA Appellate Roundtable with Justice Rucker and Chief Judge Vaidik

Justice Rucker and Chief Judge Vaidik were the featured guests at the annual Appellate Roundtable hosted by the Appellate Practice Section of the Indianapolis Bar Association yesterday afternoon. After playing this clip of a terrible (but short) Seventh Circuit oral argument, Justice Rucker briefly discussed brief writing and Chief Judge Vaidik discussed the importance of facts and storytelling (in briefs and oral argument). They then turned to audience questions on a wide variety of topics.

Brief Writing: Justice Rucker

Justice Rucker emphasized that brief writing is an art—not a science. What pleases one judge may not please another, although there are some inflexible rules, which include following the Appellate Rules. Those rules require when raising a claim about a jury instruction that counsel quote the jury instruction and the colloquy with the trial court.

Justice Rucker said underlining, bold, and CAPS should rarely be used for emphasis; rewrite the sentence if the point is not clear without it. He encouraged the use of headings and subheadings.

Finally, he stressed the importance of the Question Presented on transfer, providing some poor examples (which merely parrot the language of Appellate Rule 57(H)), then offered a good example that includes the substantive legal issue (paraphrased by me as follows): Is the decision of the Court of Appeals’ stating specific intent is not required for an attempted murder conviction in conflict with this Court’s opinion in Spradlin, which held specific intent is required.

Facts/Storytelling: Chief Judge Vaidik

Chief Judge Vaidik is a big fan of storytelling. She is currently reading Prof. Philip Meyer’s book. She encouraged the audience to present facts like a story; the best storyteller in a brief and oral argument is the most persuasive. Stories have universal themes of good and bad and include characters (they have names—personalize), characters have motives, and a story needs to be told from a point of view (creativity is encouraged here). Stories need to be consistent with the standard of review and include both good and bad facts—or the writer will lose credibility.

Some Questions and Answers

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 14, 2014 12:58 PM
Posted to Schumm - Commentary