On Appeal: Courts, Lawyering, and Judging

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9780393967319: On Appeal: Courts, Lawyering, and Judging
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The pursuit of justice does not always end with the verdict of a judge or jury. Along with the right to a speedy, public trial, we have the right to challenge an unfavorable verdict, to appeal our case to higher courts. But whether they affect us by deciding our own case or, more likely, by ruling on a wide range of societal issues, neither the United States Courts of Appeal nor the state appellate courts are well understood. In this book, Senior Judge Frank M. Coffin, bringing over twenty-five years of experience serving the First Circuit Court of Appeals, takes all of us, citizens and attorneys, judges and journalists, inside the appellate courtrooms as well as behind the scenes into the judges' chambers. We see the wide range of appellate cases - from environmental, governmental, and criminal to cases testing the rights of handicapped persons, employees, prisoners, and others. We see how attorneys argue these cases - why some are successful, like the late legendary attorney Edward Bennett Williams, and how some lose, sometimes irreparably damaging their clients' appeals by committing basic yet avoidable errors. We are treated to an insider's rare view of the private work of judges - how they approach the practical task of reading the many pages of briefs, what they look for in attorneys' oral arguments, their interactions with law clerks, and the collegial dynamics of the all-important decision-making process with fellow judges. We see their minds in action as they write opinions that often open new legal approaches required by our modern and technological world. With much common sense, practical advice, and wit, Judge Coffin sizes up our unique court system as a major, and nowwell-portrayed, source of second-change justice for us as individuals and as a society.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Federal appellate judge Coffin (The Ways of a Judge, 1980, etc.) takes the reader on an erudite, informative, and witty tour of American appellate courts, those courts that review the legal decisions of trial courts and give litigants a second chance at justice. Coffin is judge on the United States Court of Appeals, which makes most authoritative decisions on federal legal issues (the US Supreme Court, the only high court in the federal system, hears only a relative handful of cases each year). He does not limit his treatment to this important court, however, but examines the appellate process in both the federal and state systems. After presenting the historical background and present characteristics of the often sharply contrasting English common law and European civil law models, Coffin lays out at length the distinctive elements of American appellate practice. He contrasts the federal and state appellate systems, pointing out both the dominance of state appellate courts (they make 85 to 90 percent of all appellate decisions in this country, he concludes) and the problems that dog them (underfunding, for instance). Insightfully and often humorously, the author treats virtually every other aspect of appellate advocacy and judgeship: the judge's ``chambers family,'' including relationships with clerks; the development of an adequate record for appeal; the submission and reading of briefs; the preparation and presentation of oral arguments; the judges' conference, at which the merits of the case are discussed; and the drafting of opinions by the judges. Coffin offers his own thinking on judging appeals and offers suggestions, such as instituting alternative forums for dispute resolution that are aimed at preserving the central role of the appellate court in our rapidly changing society and legal culture. A valuable guide, by an insider, into our nation's most important legal institutions. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

How judges decide the cases they hear remains a mystery to most Americans. Judge Coffin parts some of this curtain of mystery and gives the interested reader a chance to observe the work of the federal appellate courts. While a useful description of the public side of the federal appeals process is given, the more informative part of the book is Judge Coffin's portrayal of his work style in his own chambers with his staff. This is all the more interesting since federal appeals judges live something of a monastic professional life compared with the more publicly visible work of the federal district (or trial) court judges. For other accounts of how judges work, the serious reader is advised to turn to Jack Bass's Taming the Storm: The Life and Times of Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr. and the South's Fight over Civil Rights ( LJ 1/93) and Jace Weaver's Then to the Rock Let Me Fly: Luther Bohanson and Judicial Activism (Univ. of Oklahoma Pr., 1993). Recommended for general readers.
- Jerry E. Stephens, U.S. Court of Appeals Lib., Oklahoma City
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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