Yesterday, summer associate Thomas Philbrick and I were honored to attend the Appellate Lawyers Association’s Annual Roundtable Luncheon with the Judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The event took place at the Union League Club in Chicago on May 29, 2019. The luncheon provided an opportunity for appellate attorneys to meet and converse with the judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit over lunch. Thomas and I enjoyed discussing Dalton & Tomich’s religious land use and appellate practice with Judge Amy Coney Barrett and Chief Circuit Mediator Joel N. Shapiro throughout the luncheon.
The event also featured a panel discussion with the four newest judges regarding their views on appellate practice. The panel included Judge Barrett, Judge Michael Brennan, Judge Michael Scudder, Jr., and Judge Amy St. Eve. The first few questions from the moderator focused on the judges’ experiences before taking the bench, but several questions were devoted to discussing their preferences and pointers for appellate practitioners. Judge Barrett emphasized the importance of succinct arguments that clearly outline the main issues. She also noted that attorneys should be wary of devoting too much time and space to issues that are not central to the claim. Judge Brennan emphasized the importance of organization by explaining the process that he and his clerks go through when they read the briefs. In addition, he noted that short, simple headings make it easier for the judges to understand and analyze the briefs. Judge Scudder looked back on his days in private practice and observed that, in hindsight, he would have been more careful about his citations to the record. He emphasized the difficulties that judges face when dealing with briefs that provide inaccurate or vague citations. Judge St. Eve echoed Judge Barrett’s insight when she commented on the occasional tendency to try to argue too many issues in one brief. She also added to Judge Scudder’s comments about citations to the record by noting that attorneys should provide careful and comprehensive record citations that show the judges exactly where to look. The judges’ comments were well received by the attorneys in attendance and offered clarity and helpful guidance to appellate practitioners.