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Birmingham Bar Association

Appeals J. Bradley Medaris If there is one thing attorneys are good at, it’s in fi nding new ways to screw up a case. It’s rarely intentional, but rather some fatal combination of being rushed for time and misunderstanding the rules. As a central staff attorney with the Clerk’s Offi ce of the Supreme Court of Alabama, I’ve seen my share of memorable self-infl icted wounds. I want to share fi ve ways attorneys manage, on a seemingly regular basis, to ensure defeat before briefi ng is complete. File Your Notice of Appeal Electronically Th ere is no rule, statute, opinion, regulation, or other provision that allows for a notice of appeal to be fi led electronically, either through AlaFile or ACIS. Th e AlaFile User Manual (revised Sept. 15, 2016), published by the Administrative Offi ce of Courts, specifi cally states on page 101 that a notice of appeal must be paper fi led. Th e Court of Civil Appeals recently issued a very thorough opinion discussing why the electronic fi ling of a notice of appeal fails to give an appellate FIVE EASY & CREATIVE WAYS TO THWART YOUR OWN APPEAL court jurisdiction over a case. But that doesn’t seem to stop some attorneys! Even though neither AlaFile nor ACIS off ers an option to fi le a notice of appeal, some attorneys will force one of these systems to accept a notice of appeal like a dog visiting the marketplace (to paraphrase that popular Hindi expression). As important as it is to make sure your notice of appeal is printed on something made from a dead tree, there are other requirements attorneys regularly overlook. Th is includes fi ling a docketing statement with your notice of appeal and specifi cally identifying all the parties to your appeal (in other words, no “et al.” or “etc.” on a notice of appeal). Bury Your Lede It is surprising how often attorneys who petition our Court don’t really ask for what they need. Heck, we occasionally get fi lings that provide 30 pages of exquisite argument written with the skill of a poet laureate -- but never ask for relief. It’s hard to force a court to do something when you never share what you are hoping for. Th is is an exceptionally easy problem to solve. Start and end your fi lings by clearly stating what the problem is and what you want our Court to do about it. Our Justices have enough work to do and don’t want to play a game of hideand seek with the issues in your appeal. I completely understand how hard it is just to get a fi ling prepared; editing time is usually a luxury. But it’s really smart to make sure you pass along what needs to be done to make your client happy. Hide the Ball- Mandamus & Permissive Appeal Style If you are fi ling a mandamus petition or a petition for permissive appeal (PPA), make sure you share what’s been happening in the trial court. Both mandamus petitions and PPAs require attachments for the Court to consider. Remember: you are creating the only record the Court can review. Th ese attachments are critical, and not providing them, particularly when seeking mandamus relief, can instantly ruin your opportunity to help your client. 20 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association
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