Last night, the Morris County Bar Association presented “New Jersey Appellate Practice: Tips from the Bench and Bar.” The program and participants were discussed here. Roughly 125 people attended, and everyone learned some new things and heard again some familiar things. A sampling follows.
Justice Patterson suggested that Conclusion sections in appellate briefs include a punchy summary of the client’s position, like a shorter version of a Preliminary Statement, rather than just the perfunctory “For the reasons set forth above ….,” as a way to leave the judicial readers with the essence of the case from your side. Justice Patterson, and Judges Sabatino and Stern, offered valuable tips about making a record at trial on such things as jury charge objections, evidentiary objections, and other things where a failure to be sufficiently detailed would leave appellate judges unable to understand and review issues raised on a subsequent appeal. And Judge Axelrad reminded everyone about two sometimes contradictory things about final judgments, the only kind that are immediately appealable: on one hand, a final judgment is one that disposes of all issues as to all parties; but on the other hand, Rule 2:2-3 contains a list of rulings that do not fit that definition, but which have been declared “final” for purposes of immediate appeal, such as orders granting or denying arbitration, orders granting or denying a motion to extend the time to file a notice of tort claim, and various other rulings. There was also an ethics component in which I figured prominently along with the jurists.
The highlight of the evening was a mock oral argument in which Justice Patterson and Judge Stern, resplendent in their judicial robes, presided over a matrimonial appeal. Judges Sabatino and Axelrad gave bravura performances as unprepared, incompetent, and obnoxious appellate advocates who showed everyone what not to do at an appellate argument. An MCBA member and I portrayed their equally obnoxious clients. Everyone had a good laugh and learned some things about oral arguments.
This was billed as the “second annual” MCBA appellate practice seminar. Evidently, there is already some momentum toward a third annual seminar next year. Stay tuned.