Pretrial, Trial, Appellate & Evidence Blog

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In a book I edited, entitled The Appellate Prosecutor: APractical and Inspirational Guide to Appellate Advocacy, the Honorable Paul Turner, who when the book was published was Presiding Justice of the California Court of Appeals Second Appellate District of Los Angeles, California, contributed a chapter. Judge Turner’s chapter focuses on the art of writing, specifically on crafting the short declarative sentence, which he referred to as “The Key to Good Legal Writing.” Here is…
Paul Luvera –> Faced with juror bias during deliberations, the foreman took matters into his  own hands. At the conclusion of deliberations, the foreman told the media, “The jury was biased.” Politically biased. He said that a few of the jurors were aligned with the political views of the defendants in a first-degree assault case, and this led to seven days of jury deliberations, ending with a hung jury with nine of the twelve jurors…
–> “Lesser artists borrow; great artists steal.” This is a statement attributed to Pablo Picasso. The same proposition holds true for great trial lawyers. Lesser trial attorneys borrow; great trial lawyers steal. The greats study what other trial lawyers have done, they remix it and transform it into their own work of art. This is particularly true of closing argument. Vincent Bugliosi –> Francis Wellman –> The second trial lawyer is Francis L. Wellman, an…
Sheri Johnson, Curtis Flowers attorney –> On June 21, 2019, the United States Supreme Court in Flowers v. Mississippi reversed the murder conviction and sentence to the death of black defendant Curtis Flowers. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the majority stated that Curtis Flowers had not been provided with “(e)qual justice under law” because his criminal trial was not “free of racial discrimination in the jury selection process.” Justice Kavanaugh wrote that the decision broke…
With the passing of Herman Wouk on May 17 at 103, we can remember his great masterpiece The CaineMutiny about sailors on a World War II destroyer minesweeper who mutiny against their incompetent Captain Queeg. Wouk wrote The Caine Mutiny play and for a while worked on the script for the movie in which Humphrey Bogart gave an Oscar winning performance as Captain Queeg in the Caine Mutiny movie. The basic facts underlying the court-martial case…
The Critical Importance of Practicing Your Voir Dire By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D.             Despite what Allen Iverson might say (search “Allen Iverson” and “practice” on YouTube if you do not get this reference), practice is essential to the successful development of any skillset. In competition, competitors get better by practicing. This is why it is surprising to me that most attorneys do not practice their voir dire before the day of jury selection, particularly…
Why is Paper Still King in King County? by Larry Johnson Even though the first 20 years of my practice were spent in civil litigation, my real love since the 1980s was computers, and then, in the 1990s, the emerging Internet.[1] So in 1995 I gladly accepted the invitation from Presiding Judge Dale Ramerman and King County Superior Court Clerk Jan Michaels to join the Steering Committee on Electronic Court Records.[2] We were…
This month’s Around the ABA summarized an article by Ross Guberman who is the president of Legal Writing Pro and the author of “Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates”. After interviewing over 1,000 federal and appellate judges about dos and don’ts for writing motions and briefs, Guberman wrote the article “Judges Speaking Softly: What They Long for When They Read” that was published in the Summer 2018 issue of Litigation Journal.…
The Appellate Prosecutor: A Practical and Inspirational Guide to Appellate Advocacy is a book for appellate advocates. However, its nuts and bolts coverage of how to be persuasive is valuable for any attorney who will write a brief or argue before the bench. Its pointers on brief writing and argument are invaluable. Judge Charles Moylan, thirty-year veteran of the appellate bench and renowned lecturer put it this way: “This work in my judgment will find an…