Last Friday I argued an appeal in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals at 40 Centre Street in Foley Square in downtown Manhattan. I had not done that I quite a while (a decade?).
When you are used to arguing appeals in State court, a Federal appeals court is somewhat intimidating and awe inspiring. But what first impressed me was the security. It is much stricter even than an airport. I flashed my attorney I.D. to the guards, fully expecting to avoid having to subject my possessions to scanning via the conveyer belt. I was wrong. My attorney I.D. was worthless in that Courthouse. Worse, I was told I had to leave my I-pad, I-phone or any other electronic device with Security. No exceptions.
My heart raced! I had my Brief, my notes, and even the entire Record on Appeal for my case in my I-pad. Then I remembered I had outlined my arguments the old-fashioned way on a yellow legal pad, too. I checked to make sure the yellow pad was in my brief case. Whew! It was there.
It was disconcerting to be thrust into the Stone Age in a modern Courthouse. I am hardly ever electronics-free these days.
I stepped into the elevator with my now virtually empty brief case (except a yellow pad and a pen) and pressed "17" to take me to the Courtroom. My opponent was already waiting in the antechamber. When the Courtroom doors finally swung open, my opponent, I, and four other lawyers were ushered in. The calendar consisted of only three arguments that day, so six lawyers.
No sooner had the six of us sat down when what seemed like an army of well-dressed very young lawyers - judicial clerks all of them - marched into the Courtroom and sat in a semicircle around the back of us. I counted twelve of them. Since only three judges sat on the panel, that meant four clerks per judge. They each wielded a legal pad and pen. I wondered what their notes would say about my argument.
The three judges entered through the portico behind their seats. "All rise". The first lawyer to argue had hardly said a word when the judges began peppering him with questions. The panel was "hot", the questioning incisive. The judges knew the issues and the strengths and weaknesses of each position and were itching to flush out all sides of the arguments.
When my case was finally called, my opponent (representing the appellant) climbed up to the podium first. One of the judges immediately began burning a hole right through him with tough and sarcastic questioning about one of his positions. But he held his ground, refusing to cede the point, even though the judge (and I) clearly thought his position was untenable.
My turn came. I got hit by a few tough questions, too, but my positions were easier to defend. It was the luck of the draw. I had the good fortune of having clients with a better legal position. Their arguments made more sense and were better supported by case law. I was glad to be me and not my opponent.
I was also glad to get my I-Pad and I-phone back on the way out of the Courthouse.
The Decision will come out in a few months.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I'd love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.