What Makes an Appellate Court Attorney ‘Good’?

What Makes an Appellate Court Attorney ‘Good’?

One measure most litigants want to use to gauge their potential appellate attorney is by asking how many cases they have won or lost. No appellate attorney knows the answer to this question. The rules are too broad in what the Court of Appeals of Indiana can grant to allow an attorney with many appeals under their belt to track. This is simply the wrong question to ask prospective appellate counsel as will be analyzed in this blog on what makes a good appellate attorney “good.”

Although win-loss ratio again is the measure that most prospective clients want to know. Recognize most appeals have multiple issues, all of which may be decided differently by the Court of Appeals. The controlling rule makes this clear: “The Court may, with respect to some or all of the parties or issues, in whole or part: (1) affirm the decision of the trial court . . .(2) reverse the decision of the trial court . . .(3) order a new trial or hearing; (4) if damages are excessive on inadequate, order entry of judgment in the amount supported by the evidence; (5) if damages are excessive or inadequate, order a new trial or hearing subject to additur or remittitur; (6) order entry of Final Judgment; (7) order correction of a judgment or order; order findings or a judgment be modified . . .(9) make any relief granted subject to conditions; and grant any other appropriate relief.

Thus, with the wide array of relief the Court of Appeals of Indiana can grant, it should be apparent that there is no way for an attorney to keep stats, presupposing that would even pass ethical muster. All is not lost, however. There are several ways to determine what makes an appellate attorney “good.” The first measure is how long they have handled appeals and how many appeals they have done. This will dramatically shorten the list down of attorneys to consider handling your appeal. This noted, the question to ask is not whether you will win or lose (no appellate attorney know that), but whether your story can be told in such a way the Court of Appeals wants to reverse based on your appellate filings.

So ultimately, what makes an appellate attorney “good” is the ability to review the transcript and exhibits and write a powerful story under the law that tells your story. Rarely is a technical argument going to work. What will work is telling your story under the controlling law—and when you review your brief, you think, “that is exactly what I would have said and tells my story.” If you do not get this sense when you review your brief, it is likely it is weak and has little chance of success on appeal.

A judge on the Court of Appeals is not going to reverse an appellate issue that does not “jump” off the page and “scream” injustice under the controlling law. While this is a figure of speech so to speak, if your story is not compelling, you are going to review your brief and be underwhelmed. If so, you will probably lose. If, on the other hand, you have landed a good appellate attorney, you are going to know you have done all you can do to advance your domestic appeal and protect your children. You story will be told.

This blog is written by appellate attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. We hope it helps you understand what we believe is a “good” appellate attorney. We have handled hundreds of briefs. Perhaps we are the proper fit for your appellate counsel. This blog is not to be relied upon for any legal issue or matter. This blog is not legal advice. The blog is an advertisement.


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