LAW OF THE CASE: Application in California Courts

David CasarrubiasPosted by on Aug 25, 2020 in Appellate Practice

There are a handful of legal doctrines that can be difficult to comprehend, but the law of the case doctrine shouldn’t be one of them. Yet, time and again, the doctrine seems to perplex litigants, especially when deciding whether it is binding or discretionary, and whether it has any application to a trial court’s own prior rulings. The answers to both of these questions are important to understand before asking a court to revisit a prior ruling.

The basic rule is this: a ruling or holding stated in an appellate court opinion is binding on all inferior courts in all subsequent proceedings related to the same parties in the same action. (Morohoshi v. Pacific Home (2004) 34 Cal.4th 482, 491.)

Read More

Legal Ethics: Candor to the Courts & Adverse Authority

David CasarrubiasPosted by on Dec 31, 2019 in Appellate Practice

The line between zealous advocacy and ethical conduct can sometimes become blurry to the advocate seeking to vindicate the client’s cause. And this includes appellate advocacy, not just trial work. Fortunately, the Rules of Professional Conduct inform counsel that ethical duties actually demarcate the boundaries that might otherwise be overlooked. And one of those duties is to disclose adverse authority to the courts, not simply to ignore it.

It’s been a little over a year since attorneys practicing in California were introduced to Rules of Professional Conduct, rule 3.3 “Candor Toward the Tribunal.” In simple terms, the rule requires lawyers to be truthful when addressing a court. But beyond that, subdivision (a)(2) imposes an affirmative duty on lawyers to disclose any law that is “directly adverse” to their client’s position:

Read More

Persuasive Writing & Footnote Folly

David CasarrubiasPosted by on Aug 9, 2019 in Appellate Practice

One of the greatest difficulties in creating good legal writing, particularly effective appellate brief writing, is taking voluminous and complex information and distilling it down to a handful of simple points. It is also one of its greatest delights. There are plenty of tools in a writer’s toolbox to achieve the ultimate goal of succinctness, one of which is use of footnotes.

As Bryan Garner puts it, footnotes are resources and stepping-stones for others who are interested in delving more deeply into a subject. (The Redbook, 2nd Ed., p. 135.) When used effectively, footnotes briefly and concisely establish the foundation on which a writer has built new ideas and qualified or replaced old ones. In simple terms, a footnote should be nothing more than a reference point.

Read More

Federal Appeals: What To Know About Panel Rehearings and Rehearings En Banc

David CasarrubiasPosted by on Mar 28, 2019 in Appellate Practice

Losing a federal appeal raises various options, some more appealing than others. These include filing a petition for panel rehearing, a petition for rehearing en banc, or a petition for writ of certiorari. Before deciding which petition makes sense, consider the following:

According to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (FRAP), a petition for panel rehearing is used to call to the court’s attention any material errors of law or fact resulting in a denial of justice. FRAP 40(a)(2). These include: irregularities in the trial; serious evidentiary flaws; the discovery of important new evidence which was previously unavailable; accident; unpredictable surprise; or unavoidable mistake. But, mere technical errors are not proper grounds for a panel rehearing.

Read More