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FAQ - Appealing to an Appellate Court

How can I best use my time at oral argument?

The panel has always read the briefs and is familiar with the case. Sometimes the presiding judge suggests that counsel dispense with a statement of the facts. That is generally good advice, whether or not the presiding judge mentions it.

Make your strongest argument first. You are nearly certain to get questions from the judges. Do not view these as inconvenient interruptions, but as opportunities to answer any unresolved questions in the minds of the judges. They will be deciding the case, and it is far better to spend your time answering their questions than to talk about something else. The questions may be difficult, but the judges are seeking your help in appropriately resolving the case.

This requires both preparation and flexibility on your part. Realistically assessing your case—both its strengths and weaknesses—and reviewing the record and key authorities will make oral argument more effective.

Be aware of the digital clock at the podium. You cannot ensure that you have reserved rebuttal time simply by saying, "I would like to save two minutes for rebuttal." You must watch your time and stop with two minutes remaining.