The appellate advocacy board game

Appellate process cartoonHone your skills with the fun and educational Appellate Advocacy Board Game ™, now on sale at the Court of Appeals gift shop. Let’s roll the dice and get started!

1. Monday morning find brand new file on your desk.  A 7,000-page trial transcript, how exciting! Your new client was convicted of murder, attempted murder, thinking of murder and hurting a cop’s feelings.  Trial judge was Honorable Curmudgeon “Reversible Error” Bludgeon.  Must be some good, juicy appellate issues here!  Advance 5 squares.

2.  Three-week trial was transcribed by 15 different court reporters, each using own page numbering system.  Every other page from 4,987-6,220 is illegible.  Missing pages 2450-3,672.  Back to square one.

3.  Spot a promising suppression issue.  Plainclothes cops stood under client’s window at 4 a.m. singing “Amazing Grace” until he came storming out in his underwear yelling at them to shut up.  Cops arrested him for Obstructing Government Administration and Public Indecency, searched his apartment and found cell phone containing incriminating evidence In Plain View.  Facts are identical to People v. Rodriguez where Appellate Division held that this violates Fourth Amendment, fruits must be suppressed.  Advance 5 squares.

4.  Read transcript of jury selection.  It’s 3,000 pages long because judge insisted on asking each prospective juror where they were born, where they’ve ever lived, how many children they have, where each child lives, what each one does for a living, what are their favorite t.v. programs, how often they have sex and why. Also, judge started each day by reading aloud 25-page instruction on importance of jury duty.  Eyes glaze over. Lose one turn.

5.  Client’s grandmother ejected from courtroom for shouting BOOYAH!  Egregious violation of constitutional right to public trial, except that defense counsel didn’t object.  Cautiously advance 2 squares.

6.   Case against client based entirely on security videotape showing 9 men on street corner. Client allegedly the one in the white T-shirt. Trial testimony completely unintelligible without videotape.  Call DA’s Office to ask for it, told that ADA in charge of trial exhibits is on maternity leave, they don’t know when she’s coming back and nobody else knows where tape is.  Back 3 squares.

7.  Client’s grandmother phones demanding to know what’s holding up the appeal, as she needs grandson home by Christmas.  Says he’s innocent, FBI was sending radio waves into his brain.  Back 2 squares.

8.  Court of Appeals reverses People v. Rodriguez. Says there’s no constitutional right to obstruct police investigative tactics. Back 6 squares.

9.  Client’s grandmother shows up in your office lugging shopping cart full of newspaper clippings about FBI conspiracy.  Leaves only after extracting promise that you’ll read them.  Miss one turn.

10.  Find note in court file showing that trial lawyer charged client’s family $100,000.  Call up trial lawyer to see if she has videotape.  Expensive trial lawyer says doesn’t have anything,  “I just want to put that trial behind me.” Point out that client doesn’t have that option with sentence of 107 years.  Get into huge fight.  Back 2 squares.

11.  Venting frustration, kick over client’s grandmother’s shopping cart which is blocking your file cabinet.  Newspaper clippings spill out, revealing complete trial transcript and videotape underneath.  Advance 5 squares.

12.  Watch the videotape. It’s two hours long, showing 9 men standing on street corner.  All wearing white T-shirts.  Trial testimony still completely unintelligible.  Go out to the corner bar for 3 o’clock happy hour. Miss 2 turns.

13.  Watch TV news at bar. Headlines: US Attorney reveals FBI was sending radio waves into your client’s brain.  US Supreme Court reverses NY Court of Appeals, unanimously affirms holding of People v. Rodriguez that Fourth Amendment prohibits cops from luring people out of their homes by singing “Amazing Grace” at 4 a.m.  Manhattan District Attorney Vandal concedes your client was wrongfully convicted. Expensive trial lawyer indicted for falsifying CLE credits.  BOOYAH!

14.  Monday morning find brand new file on your desk.  Start new game.

 

 

 

Posted in Criminal Defense Appeals, Humor, Law, Law & Parody, Satirical cartoons | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Breaking news: King John signs Magna Carta

Signing Magna CartaEver on the cutting edge of the latest developments in the law, the American Bar Association, Expense Account Division, has announced a conference on the Magna Carta (signed by Bad King John at Runnynose in 1215).  Three thousand dollars a head exclusive of hotel and airfare to London may sound a bit steep, but the blurb promises lavish after-hours frolics such as choral evensong in St. Tyburn’s Chapel.  Evensong, as you know from Agatha Christie, is a traditional English orgy where someone is sure to end up mysteriously dead in the vicarage, impaled on a didgeridoo.

Squawk advises that if you have three thousand clams to spare, forget the ABA, buy a cheap ticket to London and hang out On Top of Old Bailey all day for free. Afterwards, pick up a fish & chips takeaway at the Damascus Chip Shop by Paddington Station and a 2-quart can of Foster’s at Ye Olde Football Hooligan Off-License, and hole up in Buckingham Palace Value Bed & Breakfast reading A.P. Herbert’s  “Uncommon Law: Being 66 Misleading Cases.”  This will give you all you need to know about the Great Charter and still leave you with something for the evensong collection plate.

A.P. Herbert (1890-1971), an English lawyer who preferred reforming the law to practicing it, wrote parodies of legal decisions featuring the fearless litigant Albert Haddock and the learned high court judge, Lord Mildew.  Although the decisions’ being published in Punch should have been a clue, American jurists soberly cited them as real English cases.

In “Is Magna Carta Law?” Mr. Haddock appeals his fine of two pounds for violation of the Transport and Irritation of Motorists Act, 1920. His eloquent attorney Sir Rowland Wash argues that the Act must be read in conjunction with the Magna Carta provision that “A freeman shall not be amerced [fined] for a small fault, but after the manner of the fault, and for a great fault after the greatness thereof. . .”

The appeal comes before one Mr. Justice Lugg who finds that no one has actually read the Magna Carta for several centuries and that it’s not what it’s cracked up to be.  He writes:

“Now in private, and even more in public, life there is no doubt that persons are accustomed to speak loosely of Magna Carta as the enduring foundation of what are known as the liberties of the subject, and to assume that the Charter is as potent a measure to-day as at the time of its origin.

“But, if we examine the Great Charter, as I did for the first time in bed this morning, we are led towards the conclusion that, if this is the foundation of the liberties of the subject, then these liberties are not so numerous as is commonly supposed.”

The Honorable Lugg observes that although the Magna Carta guarantees that “To no man will we sell, to no man deny, to no man delay, justice or right,” in fact, “much justice is sold at quite reasonable prices, and that there are still many citizens who can afford to buy the more expensive brands.”  He concludes (with a cite to Lord Mildew) that “so little of the Magna Carta is left, that nothing of the Magna Carta is left,” and fines Mr. Haddock another five pounds.

Let’s hope Mr. Justice Lugg never trains his sights on the Fourth Amendment.

 

Posted in Civil Liberties, Humor, Law, Law & Parody, Satirical cartoons | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Six exciting People’s positions with illustrations

Prosecutors don’t have thoughts, ideas or beliefs – they have positions. As in, “It is the People’s position that we don’t have to turn over that information.”

Add spice to your courtroom life by trying out these steamy People’s positions. The judge will never have to fake it again!

It is the People’s position that:

Contortionist The officers’ accounts were perfectly consistent.

 

StretchingIt is reasonably inferable that. . .

 

Giant The  defendant has put his own interests above those of Society.

 

GorillaWe are not required to provide the names of the witnesses.

 

Pieces The evidence clearly points to the defendant.

 

People's appealGranting the defendant’s motion to suppress was utterly wrong-headed, frivolous and offensive to human decency.

 

Posted in Criminal Defense Appeals, Criminal law, Humor, Law, Law & Parody, Satirical cartoons | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Replacing jail with drug (mis)treatment

Drug dog

We happened onto this heartbreaking  photo on the website of the Courthouse Dogs Foundation with the following caption:

“Most treatment court participants struggle in their long recovery from substance abuse and mental health issues. Many participants are also unemployed, homeless and estranged from their families. Waiting for a hearing can take hours and during that time many people suffer from anxiety attacks. Unable to remain in the courtroom, some participants leave and a bench warrant is issued for their arrest. This can make their progress in treatment take even longer.

“It is obvious that many participants are in acute emotional pain while they describe their lack of progress to the judge. It can be a grueling process to stay sober, hold down a job and finish a treatment plan. With all these challenges it can take almost two years to recover and graduate from a treatment court program.”

We think supplying a dog is sort of inadequate.  Why are people in “treatment” kept waiting for hours in the courtroom? Why do they have to “describe their lack of progress to the judge,” who’s not a doctor? How do we know this guy cuffed behind his back wants a dog on his lap?

Is “treatment” really such a fabulous alternative to jail, or like “resettlement” and “special measures,” just another deadly euphemism?

Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal law | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Judge Bludgeon goes to science camp

Scientist

New York judges are arming themselves with science, the better to be “gatekeepers” of expert testimony in the courtroom, according to the NY Law Journal.  The notion that judges are qualified to resolve scientific disputes comes from the famous Supreme Court decision, Daubert v. Birth Defects Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 

Justice Rehnquist – not usually known for modesty – dissented that he was darned if he understood what they were talking about, “error rate” and “falsifiability” and what-have-you.  New York sensibly ignores Daubert and tells judges that so long as the science is accepted by reputable professionals in the field, that’s enough gatekeeping already.  The rest is up to the jury using their life experience of watching aspirin commercials.

But we’re all for remedial judicial education – it’s embarrassing when our highest state court refers to DNA charts as “those little peaks and valleys” instead of the proper scientific term, doodads.  Judge Curmudgeon Bludgeon enthusiastically recommends Science.

Scene: The Judge Cafeteria in the Brooklyn courthouse.  Judge Bludgeon plops his tray down next to Judge Tenafly and Judge Gravesend eating jell-o salads.

Tenafly:  . . . and of course I found it reliable because it was a dying declaration.  Plus he swore on the Bible.  Hiya, Bludge, where’ve you been all week?

Bludgeon:  Just got back from rigorous scientific boot camp in Cancun.

Gravesend: Science, bah, humbug! Undermines our authority.  There’s only one expert in my courtroom, and that’s me.

Bludgeon: You guys better get with the program and learn to talk science or jurors will be snickering at you before you can say “falsifiability.” After all, we’re the gatekeepers.

Tenafly: Gatekeepers? You mean like in that Kafka story?  Where the litigant never gets past the Gate of the Law?

Bludgeon: (smugly) I bet you don’t even know what a hypothesis is.

Gravesend: I do so! It’s an explanation.  Like if somebody takes up two seats in the subway, it’s because he’s putting his own interests above those of Society.

Bludgeon: And what if somebody disagrees with your hypothesis?

Tenafly:  Then I hold them in contempt.

Bludgeon: No, no, no,  you have to test your hypothesis.

Gravesend: (baffled) But why? If I think it, it must be right.

Tenafly: And how can you test what you already know is right?

Bludgeon: You exercise your sound discretion, just like always. Only now we call it Science.

Gravesend (to Tenafly) Gosh, we’d better sign up for Science Camp right away!

Posted in Forensic "science", Humor, Law, Law & Parody, Satirical cartoons | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Appellate briefs are junk mail

You may have already won

How silly to complain that the Appellate Division doesn’t read our briefs!  You don’t read your junk mail, why should they read theirs?

When you toss your junk mail into the trash without opening it, it’s not because it’s missing a Table of Authorities or the margins aren’t regulation size.  It’s because you already know you don’t want whatever it is they’re selling. You already have a cemetery plot.  You don’t need a canoe. You’re never going to read 50 issues of “The Economist,” even at six cents apiece.

Appellate courts already know they don’t want your product.  Who needs to hear about problems? When they say “appellate review” they mean sitting in the grandstand waving to the parade.

But junk mail (or “direct mailing” as they say in the biz) must be effective or it wouldn’t be a billion-dollar business.  All we need is a makeover.

Scene: Getting & Spending Ad Agency conference room. The only decor is a large banner reading, “They only think they don’t want it.”

Harry Hotshit:  Guys, I’m just thinking out loud here, but how about putting on the cover: OPEN THIS BRIEF TO RECEIVE A FREE GIFT!

Tiffany Sellwell: They’ll never go for such blatant bribery.   What about OPEN THIS BRIEF AND LOSE 10 POUNDS INSTANTLY!!!

Grant Gogetter:  That sounds like a threat.  Why not disguise the brief to look like a check or a summons, with nothing but a mysterious P.O. box in Oklahoma to show where it’s from. That’ll get them to open it up and who knows, maybe even read a few pages.

Harry Hotshit: Guys, I’ve got it! Enclose a calendar with photos of the client in his or her natural habitat. If World Wildlife can make a rhinoceros look adorable, we can do the same for -

Tiffany Sellwell: And T-shirts and tote bags saying, “I’d Rather Be Affirming”!

Grant Gogetter: And boxer shorts. Get it? briefs?

All concur.

 

Posted in Criminal Defense Appeals, Humor, Law & Parody, Satirical cartoons | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Sado-masochism in federal court

 

Ms. Gavel colorUnlike state courts, which store their case files in decaying cardboard boxes randomly scattered around the floor of the Clerk’s Office, federal court has all its files chronologically organized and publicly available on a national website called PACER.

But such robot-like efficiency comes at a high psychological cost. Newcomers to PACER are directed to an animated film featuring two characters named Mr. Sound Block and Ms. Gavel (no first name supplied).  Ms. Gavel is a tall, slinky dominatrix with a voracious-looking mouth, wearing a tight skirt and lethal red shoes. Mr. Block is barefoot and wears nothing but a pair of white gloves.  Ms. Gavel kicks off the film by having Mr. Block lie on his back and giving him a vicious, utterly unprovoked head butt, causing him substantial pain as evidenced by a circle of little twittering birds flying around.

Mr. B., who clearly suffers from learned helplessness and battered sound block syndrome, gets back on his feet without protest. Ms. Gavel then chatters about how PACER is run by anonymous creatures “collecting data in the wee hours of the night.”

There’s even a sequel, where Ms. Gavel, not content with using her head as a dangerous instrument, comes armed with a bow and arrow supplied by an offstage leopard.  Once again, Mr. Block lies down and takes it in the solar plexus.

This blatant appeal to prurient interest in gavels and sound blocks is yet another conspiracy by the federal government to bilk the public of its hard-earned dollars.  Because needless to say, PACER isn’t free. You’re lured into downloading a page or two at ten cents a page, and the next thing you know, you’ve run up a bill for $27.50.  It’s only a matter of time before you’re filing for bankruptcy – in federal court, of course.

PS For more information about to manage your federal case, see “I’m Going to Federal Court with Mark and Julie.”

 

 

 

Posted in Humor, Law & Parody, Satirical cartoons | Tagged , | 6 Comments