Three Appellate Practice Nuggets from the NJSBA Annual Meeting

The NJSBA Annual Meeting in Atlantic City featured a program today on the “nuts and bolts” of appellate practice.  The panel of speakers was headed by Judges Carchman and Messano.  Naturally, many of the “nuts and bolts” were the kinds of things that, though useful, have been said elsewhere, such as here and here.  At least three pointers, however, were about things that do not often crop up at such sessions.

First, apparently a number of practitioners believe that when an appeal is assigned to Central Appellate Research, the resulting memo practically dictates the result that the Appellate Division will reach.  The judges made clear that this is not so.  Central Appellate Research personnel are professional researchers, as opposed to the judges’ own law clerks, who are recent law school graduates employed for one year by the respective judges.  But a Central Appellate Research memo carries no more inherent weight than a law clerk’s memo.

Second, motions for overlength briefs, which are not favored, apparently have a consequence for Appellate Division judges.  Judge Carchman said that a judge who grants such a motion ends up with that case.  This may be a powerful incentive not to allow overlength briefs, and is just one more reason to keep briefs within the page limits prescribed by the rules.

Third, in seeking emergent relief, parties and practitioners must keep in mind that emergent relief presumes an “emergency.”  Those who evaluate the judges assigned to emergent duty for a given week and decide to wait until the following week to make their applications in order to obtain a more favorable decisionmaker may find that the court ultimately determines that there was no emergency after all.  Requests for emergent relief imply that immediate harm will occur absent relief, and “immediate” normally means within a matter of a few days at most.

This “nuts and bolts” seminar was very valuable, especially to those who do not have much experience in the appellate courts.  An appreciative audience bestowed a warm and well-deserved round of applause on the two judges and the other panelists at the conclusion of the session.