By Brian Karle, Ball Eggleston PC
Now one year removed from a two-year clerkship with Judge Margret Robb on the Indiana Court of Appeals, I work at a general practice firm, Ball Eggleston PC, in Lafayette. It's safe to say that the words “appellate attorney” are uncommon in my legal community. That said, I left my clerkship with a passion for appeals and hope to provide a service to my community that is in short supply.
The Appellate Judges Education Institute (AJEI) is a premier appellate conference in the United States. Thanks to the Indianapolis Bar Association, I was able to attend AJEI this November for the second time in three years. Among the remarkable presenters at this year’s conference were Paul Clement, Erwin Chemerinski, and Justice Elena Kagan. But perhaps more beneficial than the CLE was the opportunity to spend three days rubbing elbows with over three hundred fifty seasoned appellate practitioners, federal circuit court of appeals judges, and state appellate judges and justices. Conversing with and learning from those individuals is invaluable to my effort to be a better appellate attorney.
One session held on day 3 of AJEI is a standout in my own mind. The topic of discussion was “Handling the Big Case,” which was presented by an impressive panel that included attorneys who argued landmark cases such as Lawrence v. Texas (liberty interest in homosexual relations) and Shelby County v. Holder (constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act) before the Supreme Court of the United States. The panel discussed the challenges of arguing high-profile cases, and offered strategies in briefing, petitioning for Supreme Court review, using amici, and handling oral argument. My fascination with this presentation cannot be overstated. But this session was particularly educational for me not only for the panel’s open discussion, but because I seized an opportunity after that presentation to speak one-on-one with a member of the panel. He graciously answered question after question about, among other things, strategies used to prepare for appellate oral argument, sharing knowledge gained after years of trial-and-error in his practice as a former state solicitor general and experienced Supreme Court litigator. This is just one example of the sort of learning experience that is hard to come by outside of a setting like AJEI. No doubt this session at AJEI will influence the way that I handle my own appeals going forward.
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