Appellate work can be dicey. There are so many requirements for formatting, font styles, number of copies and, worst of all, deadlines. I find that when working on appellate issues, I require silence and large amounts of food.
To minimize distractions, while drafting briefs and Motions to Dismiss or simply weeping in frustration whilst trying to bleed cases from WestLaw, I generally lock myself in my office, silence the phone, fire up the commode, and order several large pizzas. To dissuade individuals from the folly of trying to interrupt me during the, ah, gestation period, I place a sign on my door. It reads: “Attention: Appellate Brief in Progress. Please Do Not Disturb the Occupant Unless:
Ed McMahon is delivering the Publisher’s Clearing House check.
The building is on fire.
Prince Harry wishes to propose marriage.
You would like to give me some chocolate.
Thank you for your kind assistance in this regard.”
When I am preparing to argue an appeal, stronger admonitions are required. The sign for that occasion states: “The Occupant is Preparing to Argue an Appeal. Please Do Not Open The Door Unless:
There is an earthquake scoring greater than 7.4 on the Richter scale affecting Hartford County.
The people in the white coats have come to take me to the Institute, stick my feet in the water and plug me in.
I have been selected to star on “American Idol” as the oldest contestant in history.
I won Powerball.
Simon and Schuster has agreed to publish both of my novels simultaneously and has delivered the advance check in person together with a signed royalty agreement.”
This tends to help with, but not completely resolve, my anxiety. Deadlines are high in my mind. Recently, we received an appeal. It was hand-delivered at 5:15 p.m. on the 20th day of the applicable period. I reviewed the documents carefully, decided they were prime grounds for a motion to dismiss, and whetted my fingers for some savagery on the keyboard.
The brief sailed smoothly out onto the page. I checked the margins. I solicited proofreading. Just as the copier was vomiting the 15th copy out of the plastic hopper, I noticed that the Roman numerals of the headings were out of order.
Damn! This glitch was nevertheless a gift. I glanced back at the Practice Book, discovering belatedly that I had forgotten to include the statement verifying that I had, in fact, checked the margins and employed the appropriate font. I incorporated the date of my last confession.
Back I went to the copier. Ten copies surged forth. The machine gave a disgusting beep, and informed me sweetly that it was out of staples. I was found rocking back and forth in the file room by my esteemed secretary, Bert. Bert holds doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering and counseling, specializing in depression and anger management. In a short 40 minutes, she was able to reload the staples, and coax me out of my catatonia.
I walked the brief to the court, narrowly avoiding two cars which deliberately swerved toward me as I jaywalked across Capitol Avenue.
As the clerk checked the brief, I held my breath. I had experienced rejections before. They were hideous, worse than any romantic debacle. Luckily, she stamped in my precious work product, and sent me on my way.
When I returned, there was a message waiting. It was the appellate clerk. I had filed my motion so promptly that she couldn’t find the appeal on the computer yet. Happily, I faxed over the appellant’s court-stamped form.
What? Prince Harry is on the phone? This will just take a minute.
Amy F. Goodusky, a former paralegal, rock ‘n’ roll singer and horseback riding instructor, is of counsel for O’Brien, Tanski & Young in Hartford.