On its own motion or granting of a Motion for an oral argument, the Indiana Court of Appeals may have the litigants, by counsel, make its argument before the judges who will normally decide the opinion. At a recent CLE, two seasoned Court of Appeals judges shared wisdom for making the best oral argument. Ciyou & Dixon P.C. conducts arguments in the Court of Appeals and share this blog post with you.
First, it may seem like a basic and no-need-to-be said rule: but show up on time and be prepared. Normally, for first-timer lawyers, this means physically visiting the court in advance, watching oral arguments online, and “mooting” or practicing the argument raised in the brief before. Other skilled appellate advocates are normally more than willing to assist with playing the role of the other side and judges to posit the hard-to-answer questions in advance. So the oral argument should be ready to go long before entering the Court.
Second, most oral arguments are permeated by questions from the judges shortly after the appellant begins arguing. The appellant should anticipate these and answer the questions and then return to the argument. Stammering and stuttering reflect a lack of preparation on the logical permutations of the question or Court or weakness of your position. Preparation and more preparation is the key.
Third, the Court of Appeal (and Supreme Court) are steeped in tradition. This means that while they too are open to the public, the counsel table for the attorneys is for the attorney, not his or her client. They must sit in the gallery. Outbursts or interruptions from litigants weaken the oral argument and may cause removal from the Courtroom.
Fourth, while the time with the Court is called “oral argument”, the question from the Court judges and responses are for answers, not arguing with the judge. An attorney may respectfully disagree with a judge on occasion, but not “argue” he or she is wrong. Three judges are well prepared in advance for the case and know the importance to the litigants, attorneys, and our body of law in Indiana.
Fifth, a point the Court of Appeals judges went to great lengths to make is that the case is not decided before the oral argument. Thus, for the litigant who is paying for the oral argument and its preparation, involved with helping the attorney sharpen his or her knowledge of the facts of the case before the oral argument, or bound by the outcome when decided unless reversed by a higher court, oral argument is, well, very important.
While the majority of cases decided by the Court of Appeals do not involve oral arguments, if your case is selected or you are considering whether to ask for an oral argument, it is important to understand the key importance, rules, preparation, and implications of an oral argument. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates are extensively involved with civil, domestic, and criminal appeals in Indiana the Seventh Circuit, and the oral arguments they may generate. This blog post is written for general information and is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.