Three Short Appellate Tips - Articles

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Posted by: David Raybin on Oct 24, 2018
1. Keep an APPEAL FILE on the counsel table in plain view.
"Be always sure you are right — then go ahead." – Davy Crockett
Write the word “APPEAL FILE” in big letters on the front of a file folder. Every time the judge does something you don’t like, write it down and make a big production about opening the appeal file and put your note in the APPEAL file. After a time, folks will get the message. Seriously, you want to keep things in a handy place that may have something to do with a possible appeal.
2. Always write down the dates of all your trial court proceedings and always get the name of your court reporter.  
A short pencil is better than a long memory —
Stick important information in your appeal file. Think about all the time you have wasted as a lawyer running around trying to remember when you had this hearing or that hearing and trying to figure out who the court reporter was for a particular proceeding. You cannot have an appeal without a transcript and you cannot have a transcript if nobody remembers the name of the court reporter.  
3. Protecting your Verdict.  
"I'm no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and in the jury system — that is no ideal to me, it is a living, working reality. Gentlemen, a court is no better than each man of you sitting before me on this jury. A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up." — The character, Atticus Finch, in his argument to the jury in To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee, Author
Most modern trials have a verdict form. Attorneys should be careful to examine the jury form regarding the verdict to be certain that it is responsive to the issues while the jury is still in the box. In criminal cases, the jury form must be specific as the degree of the crime or designating the particular offense in a multiple count indictment or, for example, in theft cases, the value of the property taken. In civil cases, of course, the rules permit special verdicts which is a topic worthy of a separate presentation. Generally, see Tenn. R. Civ. P. 49.

David Raybin is a Middle Tennessee Delegate of the executive council for the Tennessee Bar Association's Appellate Practice Section. Raybin has been named the Best Criminal Lawyer in Nashville in criminal general practice and white collar defense by Best Lawyers in America and listed among the Best Criminal Lawyers in Tennessee by the Tennessee Business magazine. Raybin holds degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Tennessee College of Law.