By Charlie Ingrassia
Associate, Adler Murphy & McQuillen LLP
On May 24, 2016, the ALA hosted its annual luncheon honoring the judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Held at the Union League Club in downtown Chicago, the luncheon was attended by many of the judges who currently sit on the court, and each judge sat at an individual table alongside ALA members and guests. Also in attendance were many court personnel.
ALA President Michael A. Scodro began the luncheon by welcoming the judges and guests. Thereafter, President Scodro introduced Chief Judge Diane P. Wood, the luncheon's keynote speaker, who offered insights from the bench's perspective with respect to both brief writing and oral arguments.
Chief Judge Wood opened her remarks by noting that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1 was amended in 2015 to provide that both the courts and parties share in the responsibility of the efficient administration of justice. Toward that end, judges recognize the difficulty in preparing briefs and preparing for oral arguments.
Chief Judge Wood stressed that brief writing should be a top priority, as it is the case's first introduction to the court. Attorneys should "focus, focus, focus" their writing, tell a story and "let it flow," and address the other side's arguments. Stated differently, "briefs should not be ships passing in the night."
Regarding oral argument, Chief Judge Wood advised the parties to "bite the bullet" when it comes to answering difficult questions, including hypotheticals. The best practice is to answer questions directly with a "yes" or "no" and then explain why this specific case is different. In addition, Chief Judge Wood advised the audience that if a case is cited anywhere in the brief, a party should be prepared to discuss it at oral argument. However, if a case was not cited in a brief and an attorney is not familiar with the holding, the attorney should not wing it but instead ask for supplemental briefing.
Chief Judge Wood closed her remarks with a Q&A, in which she addressed topics ranging from the use of pictures and images in briefs to petitions for rehearing (which she noted are not granted often).
The ALA thanks the judges from the Seventh Circuit for another engaging and insightful luncheon.