On March 20, the CBA Appellate Advocacy Section held an informal meeting with Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson at Robinson+Cole’s Hartford office. This session was one in a series, where the section invites judges of the appellate courts to its meetings to exchange ideas on issues of concern to the bench and bar. Forty members of the section attended the meeting, which was moderated by section Co-chairs Thomas Donlon and James Sexton.
Chief Justice Robinson began with thoughtful and engaging comments on appellate practice. In addition to the common exhortations to make briefs shorter and limit the number of issues, he spoke about the importance of managing client expectations–explaining what an appellate court can and cannot do in a particular case. Additionally, he addressed the issue of implicit bias, and the importance of advocates being careful their interactions with judges did not differ based on race or gender, sharing an example of an argument where an attorney constantly interrupted one of the female justices, but none of the male justices. On another topic, he stressed that an advocate’s credibility is key and that misrepresenting the facts or the law in a case can be devastating for that attorney’s reputation in the future. Finally, Chief Justice Robinson spoke of the the importance of section members reaching out to trial attorneys and including them in section discussions. Not only are trial attorneys handling an appeal less likely to be as experienced in the unique appellate procedures, but their decisions at trial on matters such as preservation of the record have, a critical impact on the likelihood of success on appeal, regardless of who writes the brief or argues.
Chief Justice Robinson then entertained questions from attendees. A wide range of issues were covered, including the Supreme Court’s new procedure for inviting amicus briefs, how to prepare a successful petition for certification, public response to high profile decisions, the challenges of self-represented parties, and how to question a trial court’s decision without appearing to personally attack the trial judge. Section members thanked Chief Justice Robinson for the opportunity to discuss issues that affect their practice, as well as to offer positive suggestions to problems that confront the Court. The chief justice graciously stayed after the general discussion concluded to talk with members individually.