This skills-based seminar will focus on the art of crafting an effective appellate brief and presenting a persuasive oral argument — all in the context of a criminal case. Students will examine the practical, substantive and procedural aspects of appellate advocacy, learning how to identify promising appellate issues, to scour a case’s factual and procedural record, to prepare a persuasive appellate brief, and to deliver an effective oral argument. Through class discussions about real-world criminal cases, attendance at an oral argument in a local appellate court, and one-on-one instruction from the professor, the course strives to convey a realistic sense of the life of a criminal-law practitioner and appellate lawyer. Although the seminar may be of special interest to those considering a career in criminal law, it should be of interest to any law student, since success in any legal career requires excellent writing and oral-advocacy skills. Students will write (and rewrite) an appellate brief, using the record and materials of a real criminal case, and will present a moot oral argument (or two) in the same case. The professor will review an interim draft of your brief, providing comments and suggestions to aid in its revision, and will offer an individualized critique of your oral argument(s). Both the draft and final versions of the student brief must be at least 6,000 words in length, excluding footnotes (or roughly 25 pages). Grading will be based on the brief (60%), the oral argument (30%), and class participation (10%). Attendance and participation in class each week are mandatory. The brief is intended to fulfill the upper-level writing requirement.
There will be no class meeting on Wednesday, September 19, 2018, because of Yom Kippur. Instead, the class will review materials for, and then attend, an oral argument in a criminal case being presented in local or federal appellate court. This “field trip” will necessarily be scheduled outside of our usual class-meeting time – most likely, on a weekday morning – but the date for the excursion will be chosen in consultation with class participants.