Charles R Wilson
The following information was provided in response to a survey prepared by the Federal Court Practice Committee of The Florida Bar. This information is not binding on any judge or court official and may not be relied upon for precedential purposes. Further information may be found in the attachments (sample orders, etc.) referenced at the end of this Guide entry or on the court's website noted below.
Appellate Practice - Oral Argument
What, if any, comments or suggestions do you have regarding effective oral advocacy before the Eleventh Circuit?
In the Eleventh Circuit, only approximately one-third of appeals are scheduled for oral argument. Two-thirds of the cases are decided on the basis of the briefs alone. The cases that are scheduled for oral argument are those that typically involve intractable issues that may trouble a particular judge, close cases, or cases involving issues of first impressions in the Circuit. Therefore, counsel should arrive at oral argument prepared to answer questions from the panel rather than regurgitate or summarize what is already in the briefs. Counsel should be prepared to engage in a dialogue or discussion with the court about the pertinent issues in the case. To do so, counsel should be thoroughly familiar with the record, the applicable standard of review and important precedent governing the case. Oral argument time is relatively short and must be utilized wisely.
Appellate Practice - Brief Writing
What, if any, comments or suggestions do you have regarding effective brief writing?
The court's first impression of the case is obtained from the brief itself. If the case is not orally argued, the briefs may provide counsel's only opportunity to persuade the court. Therefore, thorough preparation of the brief is critical. The most effective briefs are those that are accurate, contain appropriate citations to the record, and are written with clarity and brevity. If there are multiple issues, counsel should lead with their strongest arguments. Do not bury winning arguments in a pile of multiple losers. Devote the majority of the brief to the winning arguments. Also, I have seen briefs raising issues that could be resolved in favor of the framer, but the answers to the framed issue would not entitle the framer to relief. They are interesting issues, but don't affect the bottom line: affirmance or reversal. The issues should be framed so that the answer to the question would entitle the party to relief. Appellate judges read thousands of pages of brief a month. Briefs that stand out and make the most favorable impression are those that are interesting to read. It is important to ensure that the brief comports with the requirements of the Rules of Appellate Procedure, but it is also important to ensure that they are written to provide the court exactly what it needs to know efficiently and directly.