People’s briefs and other horror fiction

In the psychological horror thriller Neighbor George, the appalling creature who possesses Dovey the narrator tells her she’s doomed to a living death. Her body will remain in the physical world, but “the real you will belong to Mom and I,” he says.

Clearly the spook hasn’t reckoned on what sort of heroine Dovey is. A Lacan-reading literature student heading for graduate school, she furiously retorts:

“Me, me, me, you jerk! ‘Mom and me.’ Object of the preposition. Only Midwestern hicks say ‘belong to Mom and I’ because they think it sounds educated. Don’t you know anything?”

The creature removed his hand from my shoulder. “You’re an awfully strange person, Dovey.”

Since you don’t often get a laugh like that from horror fiction, plus the author is our cousin, we were inspired to write a review for Amazon. Which all-powerful entity, after requiring more personal information than a Senate confirmation hearing, offered us a template for book reviews. For only $3.98.

Given the obvious connection between horror fiction and the briefs concocted by the District Attorney’s Office (the so-called “People”) opposing our appeals, we lamped that they too must be using a template. We promptly sent away for it, enclosing a check for $3.98.

Here it is:


Think it’s hard to write a People’s brief? No way! Appellate courts are always on the lookout for new and exciting People’s briefs! Sure, they get briefs from spoilsport criminal defendants. But hands down, it’s your brief that counts! Drop in to any oral argument and you’ll hear at least one appellate judge waggishly quizzing the defense lawyer, “But Counselor, wasn’t your client convicted?”

So let’s buckle up and get started!

Step 1: A brief has to include a statement of facts. Long transcript? Boring scientific testimony? Don’t be discouraged! Simply copy the prosecutor’s opening statement. Contradictory evidence? Impeached witnesses? Not your problem!

Note: But it’s a good idea to omit the prosecutor’s repetitions of “You know what, Ladies and Gentlemen?”

Step 2: Next you have to say something about the appellant’s argument. Were you absent on the day they explained the Fourth Amendment in law school? Never got your mind around due process? Can’t understand why the People are stuck with the burden of proof? Don’t let that stop you! Simply paraphrase the appellant’s point headings, begin every other sentence with “after all,” add scornful quotation marks, and conclude, “Defendant’s arguments are meritless (unavailing) (ridiculous) (blotto).”

Sample: Defendant self-servingly complains he was entitled to “disclosure” of a “surveillance tape” showing he was in “jail” in “Tallahassee” at the time of the “shooting” in the “Bronx.” Defendant’s argument is fanciful. After all, it is reasonably inferable that he had a doppelganger in Florida.

Note: The above paragraph will most likely constitute the appellate court’s decision.

Step 4: Fill up 20-30 pages with case law copied from old briefs. Don’t worry if they have nothing to do with the issue. After all, you’re being paid by the word.

But, you might ask, what if there really is a videotape showing the defendant in Florida when he was allegedly shooting up a bodega in the Bronx? Go back to Step 4.

Our motto: if you can’t prove one thing, prove something else and say it’s the same.

About Appellate Squawk

A satirical blog for criminal defense lawyers and their friends who won't give up without a squawk.
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7 Responses to People’s briefs and other horror fiction

  1. Peter G says:

    Back in another century, when I was an Assistant Federal Public Defender in the District of Connecticut, I briefed and argued several appeals in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This was, Squawk, a *classy* big time court of high repute, where the bust to your left, as you argued, was of Henry Friendly, and the bust to your right was of Learned Hand. (The chief judge at the time was Irving R. Kaufman, who still had the blood of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg dripping from his fangs.) While awaiting my ten minutes, I was privileged to hear one of the judges (who of course had been nominated by the President of the United States and confirmed to a lifetime position by an overwhelming vote in the Senate) ask the attorney for a defendant-appellant, “Isn’t it a fact, counsel, that you would not even be here today were your client not a convicted criminal?”


  2. Scott Jacobs says:

    You’re an awfully strange person, Squawk.


  3. Victoria Nelson says:

    Whoa! Will your next expose be on nepotism, even when fully disclosed? I love this and will forward to my publishers since it doesn’t look like the book will be getting any conventional reviews. And brother, you had to pay $3.98 to write a review? Highway robbery. Drinks on me the next time we meet!


    Vicki ________________________________


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