Judge Christopher McFadden Offers Advice on Requesting Oral Argument

How do you make the most compelling possible case for oral argument in the Georgia Court if Appeals? According to Judge Christopher McFadden, it is important to draft a self-contained request that summarizes the key issues in the case. It is important also to explain exactly how argument will assist the court under the unique facts and with the unique issues in the case. Finally, it is important also to explain exactly how argument will assist the court under the unique facts and with the unique issues in the case. It is also important to assume that the Court will not have seen your brief when they take up your request to argue.

Judges McFadden, Blackwell, and Dillard spoke to a combined meeting of the Appellate Practice Section and Criminal Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia. And, for Judge McFadden, this was an important issue. Below is a summary of Judge McFadden said, combined with a little editorializing from me.

Don’t spit out boilerplate.

Write a request tied to the unique facts and legal issues in the case. From time to time, lawyers call me requesting a form for a request for argument. I love helping other lawyers, so I don’t mind providing some of my past materials just to give folks a visual of what a request to argue looks like. But I get concerned when it appears that the lawyer is looking for assistance in how to word the request. There is no formula. In fact, if you fire up the computer and start generating boilerplate you probably wont’ be arguing this case.

Get to your point and theirs.

The request should quickly and succinctly educate the Court on the essential issues in your case, what your argument is, and without conceding the merit, a summary of what the other side’s position is. There’s a little art in all of this. You don’t want to concede your opponent’s position, but you don’t want to portray your opponent’s as a  straw man  either. If the case isn’t even close, I’d forego argument.

A request for argument is the opportunity to advocate.

It’s not only a reader’s digest condensed version of your argument but of your opponent’s anticicipated argument also. And it can be a great second brief in condensed form.

You can’t write it if you don’t really know your case.

By the time you’re drafting a request to argue, you should be in a position where you could tell your spouse or a friend or someone at a picnic or cocktail party the essence of your case in about 90 seconds. Because that’s what a request for argument is. It’s an elevator speech.

Finally, Judge McFadden explained that it’s important to explain exactly how oral argument will assist the court in deciding the case? What is it about this set of facts and this set of legal issues that lends itself to written and oral argument? Next to setting out the issues in a succinct fashion, your oral argument should set out exactly why it is important to have an exchange with the court before deciding the case.

If you follow Judge McFadden’s advice, even if you don’t win the request to argue, the process of honing your argument to its essence will likely help you refine your brief and know your case better. And if argument is granted, it is a good first step to prepare.

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