Writing a Persuasive Introductory Statement: A Lesson From Judge Reisner

Moran v. Board of Trustees, Police & Firemen’s Retirement System, 438 N.J. Super. 346 (App. Div. 2014).  This appeal was by a firefighter who sought an accidental disability retirement pension under N.J.S.A. 43:16A-7.  Here is the first paragraph of Judge Reisner’s opinion for the Appellate Division yesterday, minus the final sentence of that paragraph:

James Moran, a firefighter, heroically saved two victims from a burning building by kicking in the building’s front door.  Although Moran suffered disabling injuries in this incident, the Board of Trustees of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (Board) denied his application for an accidental disability retirement pension.  Applying Richardson v. Board of Trustees, Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, 192 N.J. 189, 212-13 (2007), the Board found that Moran’s disability was not due to a traumatic event within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 43:16A-7, because the incident was “not ‘unexpected and undesigned.'”

After reading about this “heroic” firefighter, who “suffered disabling injuries” in “sav[ing] two victims from a burning building,” would you conclude, as the Board did, that the firefighter did not deserve an accidental disability retirement pension?  Though Judge Reisner proceeded to go through a careful analysis of the statute and apply the appropriate standard of review (while referring again to the firefighter’s “heroic response to an undesigned and unexpected traumatic event [that] left him disabled”, the result was clear, and irresistible to virtually anyone, from her opening paragraph.  That paragraph concluded with the sentence “We disagree and reverse,” thereby announcing that plaintiff Moran would be awarded his pension.

Now that’s an Introductory Statement for all of us who write appellate briefs to emulate.