Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules of Family Court Procedure, and Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure were updated effective September 1, 2020. -CCE
I stumbled across this some time ago. Your first reaction is going to be housekeeping tips? Are you kidding? Take a closer look. The tips on Word and Excel have been invaluable tools to help me do my job. I did not grow up using Word and Excel. I started with a typewriter and have been learning new technology ever since. I love technology, and I think it gets more intuitive all the time. But, if I do not use it often, I can get stuck. When I need a hand, I have found the tips on Word and Excel especially helpful. Even better, both the Word and Excel tips have newsletters and answer questions from readers. The tools are out there. You just have to find them. The practical household tips are an extra plus. An easy “go to” website for all sorts of things. -CCE
I know what you’re thinking. Municipal codes? This has nothing to do with my job or the research I regularly need. Good point. What if your house catches on fire and the fire hydrant across the street does not work? A fire truck loses one of its hoses on the main highway in town and causes an accident. Do you have a remedy? It’s in the municipal code. The police knock down the wrong door and the someone gets hurt – or worse, is killed? In each situation, the If you want to sue the city or town you live in, there’s a procedure just like state and federal courts, especially if you want to end up in state or federal court.
I used to work for a municipality and have hundreds of examples of situations where something happened that caused someone wanted to make a complaint, complain about a neighbor, condemn a building, or sue the municipality. If you live in any type of municipality, you are affected by the municipal code.
In your state statutes, you will usually find the municipal code under “Cities and Towns.” You can also find often find it simply by typing in the name of the town or city in your browser. This excellent beginner’s research guide tells you how to navigate it and more. I highly recommend a bookmark. -CCE
Add Term Emphasis to Your Westlaw Search with The Carat Symbol, Cleveland Marshall College of Law Library Blog (with hat tip to William P. Statsky)
Westlaw has added an important search term, the carat (^) (shift 6 on your keyboard). This allows you to put more emphasis on a search term. To use it, place the carat symbol right behind the term you want emphasized.
If you need a refresher on Westlaw Edge, check this out:
Westlaw’s Guide to Law Review Research, which includes the carat symbol as well:
I have used Westlaw for a long time, but can always use any tips I can get! -CCE
Coronavirus isn’t the Only Infection to Worry About Right Now, by Lance Caughfield, Appellate Advocacy Blog
Mr. Caughfield reports that the Texas Office of Court Administration was attacked by ransomware in May. According to Mr. Caughfield, Texas refused to pay the ransom and shut down their systems. They are doing their best to work around the problem.
In my state, we have had our share of navigating changing rules and procedures due to COVID 19. I cannot imagine the disruption caused by attacking the court’s online systems. Imagine trying to find out the status of your case using social media.
Mr. Caughfield, a former IT professional, gives insight about how ransomware works and what we can do to keep our computer systems safe. It is excellent advice and well worth the read. -CCE
16 PARALEGAL BLOGS FOR 2020, BY Online Master Paralegal Blogs for 2020
A list of valuable and helpful blogs for paralegal professionals and paralegal students. -CCE
Legal Research Demystified, by Eric Voight, Professor of Legal Research and Writing, Faulkner University
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3354594 (table of contents and a sample chapter)
I have a new favorite legal research textbook and reference guide for law and paralegal students — Legal Research Demystified. In my opinion, it offers a fresh approach to finding and understanding the law. It guides a student in a logical process to research common law and statutory issues. It minimizes the chances that students will miss an important step or forget a necessary tool, such as the digest system or a citator.
I like the way this book uses hypotheticals and visual aids, including screen captures from online databases, checklists, and charts. It does what a book on legal research should do – it shows and tells you how to do legal research rather than discussing finding research tools in a vacuum.
Everyone learns in a different way, but I think the opportunity to practice what you have learned is one of the strongest ways to teach. I was impressed to see that both students and professors have access to online exercises for each chapter using Core Knowledge for Lawyers (https://coreknowledgeforlawyers.com).
Each self-guided exercise walks students through the steps identified in the textbook and teaches them to research on Westlaw and Lexis Advance, again using visual aids, tips, and hypotheticals. As students electronically answer each question, Core Knowledge instantly provides feedback and an explanation of the right anwer. It is my understanding that additional exercises should be available May 2020. -CCE
On Your Feet: Some Simple Steps to Presenting in Person, by Joseph Regalia, Appellate Advocacy Blog
Even though this post is written for attorneys who want to hone their oral argument skills, I think it also works for those who speak or teach, regardless of your audience. -CCE
Tips to Immediately Improve Your Writing Skills, by Adam Lamparello, Appellate Advocacy Blog
An excellent list of key skills to improve your legal writing regardless of your proficiency level. This is one of the best legal writing checklists I have seen. Definitely worth a bookmark. -CCE
Changes to the Tenth Circuit Rules and Other Information (with hat tip to Megan Barrett, Kansas Paralegal Association)
Please take note that the 2020 Rules for the U.S. District Court for the Tenth Circuit will change as of January 1, 2020. Read more about these changes in the announcement from the Court below and the first link provided above. Now is a good time to review these changes and update your 10th Circuit docketing cheat sheets.
If you do not frequently file federal appeals, please note the New Or Infrequent Attorney Filer (look to the right of the web page screen) and Quick Reference Guide button (see second and third links above). You will find forms and tips for those who do not regularly practice in this federal appellate court. To help learn these rules and formats, I recommend revising these guides yourself with the new court rules. This exercise will be well worth your time and help you to memorize the 2020 rule changes. -CCE
INFORMATION PROVIDED BY THE 10th CIRCUIT COURT CLERK:
The 2020 Tenth Circuit Rules take effect January 1, 2020. Among other changes, Tenth Circuit Rules 30 and 31 have been revised to alter the process for submitting hard copies of formal merits briefs and appendices. For all formal merits briefs and appendices filed on or after January 1, 2020 (regardless of when an appeal was filed), counsel should NOT submit the required hard copies until the Clerk’s Office confirms via minute order that the electronically-filed brief and appendix comply with all applicable federal and local rules. Hard copies must be received in the Clerk’s Office within five business days from entry of the minute order confirming compliance, which will also set a deadline for the next brief (if any) to be filed.
If an electronically-filed brief or appendix is not compliant, the Clerk’s Office will issue a deficiency notice giving counsel three business days to electronically file a compliant brief/appendix. Errata sheets will no longer be accepted; counsel must correct deficiencies by re-filing the entire brief/appendix. After the Clerk’s Office confirms that the refiled brief/appendix is compliant, the Clerk’s Office will issue the aforementioned minute order setting (1) the five-business-day deadline for receipt of hard copies; and (2) a deadline for the next brief to be filed.
Hard copies of supplemental/ memorandum briefs are not required unless the court expressly orders otherwise. Hard copies of motions, responses, replies, and bail memorandum briefs/appendices are not required. See 10th Cir. R. 27.2 and 9.5.
The full text of the 2020 Tenth Circuit Rules, and a memorandum detailing all 2020 revisions, can be found at https://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/clerk/rules. Please contact the Tenth Circuit Clerk’s Office (303-844-3157 | Clerk@ca10.uscourts.gov) with any questions or concerns.
Chief Deputy Clerk
Review: Courtroom Objections — trial assistance on your iPhone, iPhone J.D., by Jeff Richardson
Jeff Richardson shares Anthony Shorter’s updated app, Courtroom Objections. Think of it as a cheat sheet to evidentiary objections and responses for federal and some state courts. Currently, the app covers federal court and these state jurisdictions: AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, IL, IN, LA, MD, MA, MI, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TX, UT, WI.
The only downside I see to the convenience of this app is that federal courts forbid cell phones and your state court might as well. Even if your court allows cell phones, it is still awkward – or forbidden – to use your iPhone at the counsel table in front of a judge or jury. But in depositions or other settings, it would be a useful and handy tool, especially new lawyers or paralegals. -CCE
Tips.net, Sharon Parq Associates©2019
I stumbled across these technology tips some time ago. I love technology. But, like everyone, if I do not use it often, I often forget a step or get stuck. When I need a hand, I have found the tips on Word and Excel especially helpful. Even better, both the Word and Excel tips have newsletters and answer questions from readers. -CCE
Research Guides in Focus – Compiling a Federal Legislative History: A Beginner’s Guide, by Barbara Bavis, In Custodia Legis Blog
You may remember the Schoolhouse Rock song, “I’m Just a Bill.” Both state and federal laws – statutes – start out as just a bill. Once the bill is passed by a state or federal legislature and signed by a governor or the President, it becomes law. If you want to be proficient in legal research, it is important to understand this process. This post is an excellent introduction to federal legislative intent and how to use it to research and interpret federal statutes, also called codes.
If you are researching a new statute, you need to know where to look. Once a statute becomes law, it is not immediately categorized into the federal code. Instead, it is published chronologically in the Statutes at Large. (See https://www.loc.gov/law/help/statutes-at-large/.) Statutes are “codified,” meaning categorized and published in the United States Code, anywhere from 6 weeks to a year after it became law. The United States Code, just like state statutes, are organized alphabetically into titles and numbered consecutively, such as Title 26, Internal Revenue Code. (See http://uscode.house.gov/browse.xhtml.)
There will be situations in which you will need to research why a statute or federal code was written and passed into law. When the legal argument hinges on a particular law, we normally look to case law to see how our jurisdiction’s court, or those that would be persuasive to our court, interpreted this statute. But, if your statute is recent and no case law has yet addressed it, you must research the legislative intent to support your argument. In other words, why was the bill written, what was its purpose, and what were the reasons given when the bill was debated to pass it?
Courts apply the law to the facts of each case to decide that case’s outcome, while relying on precedent and doctrine of stare decisis. But, when no case law interpreting a law exists in your jurisdiction – a case of “first impression” – you must look elsewhere for legal authority to support your argument. Persuasive authority, cases decided by courts from other jurisdictions, can be just that – persuasive – but they are not cases your court must follow. The legislative intent is a stronger argument on which your court can rely to make its decision.
Because the Library of Congress and other online sources have digitalized the Statutes at Large and other online resources, it is much easier to research federal legislative intent. I encourage you to look to the Library of Congress and the law librarians at In Custodia Legis Blog to help you on that journey. -CCE
Mueller? Mueller? More E-Discovery Lessons from Bill and Bob, by Craig Ball, Ball In Your Court
Is there anyone who knows and can explain e-discovery like Craig Ball? If so, I don’t know who it is. This is one is a keeper. If you think you understand how to redact a document, this post is for you. -CCE
Families of Sandy Hook Victims May Sue Gunmaker Over Marketing Practices, Top State Court Says, by Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal
On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza killed 20 twenty first-grade children, 6 adults, his mother, and himself in Newtown, Connecticut, with a Remington Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle and other guns. In 2014, the children’s families sued Remington and others. That wrongful death civil lawsuit was dismissed in 2016 relying on federal law that protects gun manufacturers and retailers. The families appealed. In a recent surprise decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled 4-3 to reverse and remand the case to the state trial court relying on Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA).
The 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) has protected gun makers and retailers against civil liability – until now. In its analysis, the Connecticut Supreme Court specifically noted that (1) the Bushmaster is a military-style rapid semiautomatic fire rifle with a large magazine; (2) the force and velocity of its bullets create a shock wave and catastrophic injuries; and, (3) the shooter killed 26 people in less than 4 and a half minutes. The Court dismissed many of plaintiffs’ claims. But, it agreed with plaintiffs’ argument that defendants’ advertising and the way in which it did it was a CUTPA exception for illegal marketing practices.
Plaintiffs can proceed with their theory that Remington knowingly marketed and promoted the gun ‘for civilians to use to carry out offensive, military style combat missions against their perceived enemies,’ the court said.
This is a case to watch. Expect much speculation about the impact of this ruling and the case’s eventual outcome. It has the potential to be a game changer for gun makers, distributors, retailers, and victims of gun violence. -CCE
Judiciary Has Funds to Operate Through Jan. 31, United States Courts (Published on January 22, 2019)
If you practice in any federal court, please note. Pay attention to your case’s court website and have a backup strategy. -CCE
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO) now estimates that federal courts can sustain funded operations through Jan. 31, 2019. The Judiciary continues to explore ways to conserve funds so it can sustain paid operations through Feb. 1. No further extensions beyond Feb. 1 will be possible. The Judiciary previously had revised its estimate for exhausting available funds from Jan. 18 to Jan. 25.
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Should funding run out before Congress enacts a new continuing resolution or full-year funding, the Judiciary would operate under the terms of the Anti-Deficiency Act, which permits mission critical work. . . . Each court would determine the staff necessary to support its mission critical work.
In response to requests by the Department of Justice, some federal courts have issued orders suspending or postponing civil cases in which the government is a party, and others have declined to do so. Such orders are published on court internet sites. Courts will continue to conduct criminal trials.
The Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system remains in operation for electronic filing of documents, as does PACER, which enables the public to read court documents.
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Updates will be provided as more information becomes available.
I have a collection of favorite legal writing books. Among them is a much-loved, dog-eared, and highlighted book, Persuasive Legal Writing, by Professor Lou Sirico, Jr.
Some years ago, I saw that Professor Sirico was co-editor of the Legal Skills Prof Blog, and became an immediate faithful follower. You will find many references to his posts here at this website. His writing speaks for itself.
Sadly, this extraordinary man passed away on December 26, 2018 from cancer, and this great loss warrants note and the remembrance by someone who knew him well. With his permission, I share this January 2, 2019 post by Professor James Levy, a long-time friend of Professor Lou Sirico and co-editor of the Legal Skills Prof Blog.
It’s been a week since Lou, the co-editor of this blog and a friend and mentor to so many, colleagues and students alike, passed away. I haven’t posted on the blog since then out of respect for Lou’s memory and because I was waiting to find the right words to express what Lou meant to the people who knew him. But after a week I’m still at a loss to adequately describe his contributions. Instead, let me elaborate a bit on my earlier post while sharing some observations and anecdotes that speak to the kind of person Lou was and the many ways he helped others.
The first thought that comes to mind when I think about Lou is that he was one of the most authentic, genuine people I’ve ever met. I recently had the good fortune to spend a year as a visiting professor at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs (where, ironically enough, one of Lou’s former Villanova students was a JAG officer and professor in the law department) and the Air Force officers I met there, who I greatly admired, reminded me a lot of Lou. What they all have in common is their humility, putting service above self, trustworthiness, loyalty and honor. Lou didn’t have much of a social media presence, and he wasn’t one to tout his own accomplishments so many readers might not realize how much he devoted himself to the service of others. From organizing writing workshops that helped colleagues with their scholarship, to taking leadership positions in AALS, LWI and similar groups, to serving as EIC of the Journal of LWI and on the editorial board of Perspectives, Lou was the kind of guy that if he saw an opportunity to contribute to the profession, he was the first to raise his hand to volunteer. On an individual level, if you needed personal or career advice, he would always lend a patient ear and offer his sage wisdom. And he continued to serve others well into the latter phase of his career when most people are either slowing down or withdrawing altogether from such activities. Lou continued to serve others even when dealing with very serious health issues that for anyone else would have been good reason to dial it back. But Lou was always a work-horse and never a show-horse.
When Lou made a commitment to something, he meant it and kept his word. Take this blog, for example. When Lou agreed to help me start it in 2010, he was committing to blogging nearly every day for more than 8 years. Think about how many other blogs and bloggers have come and gone in that time. I’d like to think Lou continued to blog all these years, even in sickness, because he enjoyed it or found it satisfying, but I also know that he did it because he was a man of his word who honored his commitments. Related to that, Lou was a man of great integrity as evidenced by his decision to resign from an editorial board in protest over the mistreatment of a colleague.
For all these reasons (and more), many years ago I nominated Lou for the Blackwell Award which is given to the legal writing prof who makes an outstanding contribution to the discipline. By the time I’d nominated Lou for the award, I’d known him for more than ten years. During that time, I’d heard some colleagues pronounce his last name “sear-ah-coh,” though I had always pronounced it “sur-ree-coh,” like the famous Watergate judge. Since Lou never corrected me, I assumed I had it right. But during the Blackwell speech I gave on Lou’s behalf at AALS that year, I asked Lou from across the room “have I been pronouncing your name wrong all these years?” Lou sheepishly nodded “yes.” I later realized that Lou would rather endure the mangling of his last name than possibly embarrass someone by correcting them. In other words, another example of Lou putting the feelings of others ahead of his own.
When my mother passed away about a year or two after that, I was about to take over as EIC of J. Legal Writing, a job that Lou had also previously done. Lou was the first person I called for advice because I was thinking about quitting. Lou counselled me not to make any hasty decisions about important life choices like jobs, relationships, etc. following a traumatic event like the death of a parent. Instead, he told me to wait at least a year to put some distance between my mother’s death and any decision about the EIC job. During our last phone call several weeks ago, I reminded Lou of that conversation – which he remembered well – and how I’d been able to pay it forward to others in the intervening years. Yet another example of Lou’s continued service. And during our last phone call, I got emotional when Lou said he likely had less than a year due to the cancer diagnosis. Lou reassured me that he’d made peace with his situation and in so doing was clearly trying to protect my feelings a bit too.
Tom Brokaw called the generation that fought in World War II the “Greatest Generation” because of their dedication to service above self, being committed to a cause larger than oneself and their collective strength of character. Lou was born too late to be part of the “Greatest Generation” in terms of demographics. But in terms of ethos and the way he lived his life, that’s exactly who he was and why we won’t see the likes of Lou Sirico again.
Rest in peace.
Parties Ordered to Conduct Deposition at State Line, Lowering the Bar, by Kevin Underhill
Because we Oklahomans are totally fine with losing the Big 12 Championship to some other team whose name I can’t recall, this discovery dispute seemed understandable. [Sarcasm intended.] Everyone knows that, when it comes to discovery disputes, nothing is too outrageous, even if the Court adds football bragging rights to its Order.
Despite what I’m sure were sincere good faith efforts by both sides, neither could agree on the location for the corporate representative’s deposition – San Antonio, Texas, or Bentonville, Arkansas. Both refused to budge and had dug in their respective heels. The Court, when faced with an Opposed Motion for Protective Order by the Arkansas corporation, chose a unique resolution to make both parties happy. – CCE
62 Of The Most Hilarious Things That Court Reporters Have Ever Recorded To Be Said In Court, by Gierdrė, boredpanda
On Thanksgiving weekend, I had a “water mitigation event” at my house. Since that time, I have been sleeping in the living room in a blowup bed, which is actually not that bad. The holidays became even more interesting when, on Christmas Eve, a motor in the furnace suddenly went out. It was even more suddenly fixed before the coming cold spell.
Under the current circumstances, I feel the need for a hefty dose of humor. While this may not be the most scholarly post I have offered at this website, it is one of the funniest. – CCE
How To *Really* Lock Down a PDF Document, by Catherine Sanders, Catherine’s Call, ncbarblog
Although I have worked in multiple areas of the law, I cannot think of one in which I did not use Adobe Acrobat. Even if you do not have the latest version, Adobe Acrobat DC (which I love), you need to learn how to “lock” your document so that no one outside of your office can edit it in any way.
There is a definite danger in becoming complacent and not staying up to date with technology. Keeping up to date can be expensive. You and others may also have a short learning curve to retrain on new software.
But, think about it. We constantly retrain ourselves in the legal world. Court rules, case law, and statutes change, and we are ethically bound to learn and them. I cannot count how many versions of WordPerfect, Word, Adobe Acrobat, or case management software I’ve learned over the years. Retraining is simply a necessary fact of life when you are a legal professional.
I like this post for several reasons. First and foremost, it not only tells you, but shows you, how to lock down your .pdf document. Second, it shows you how to use some Adobe functions you might not normally use, which adds to your skill set. This one is a keeper! -CCE
Don’t Mock A Legal Argument If You’re Completely Wrong, by Joe Patrice, Above the Law Blog
Mark Twain said, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” It is always awkward when the court benchslaps your legal argument.
There are useful lessons here for all of us, not just State Farm. First, when your client is relying on the terms of a contract, note its details before you say something you will wish you hadn’t. Second, be careful with hyperbole and sarcasm when writing a brief for an appellate court.
I agree with Mr. Patrice. The opening paragraph of the Sixth Circuit Court’s opinion is worth repeating. -CCE
There are good reasons not to call an opponent’s argument ‘ridiculous,’ which is what State Farm calls Barbara Bennett’s principal argument here. The reasons include civility; the near-certainty that overstatement will only push the reader away (especially when, as here, the hyperbole begins on page one of the brief); and that, even where the record supports an extreme modifier, ‘the better practice is usually to lay out the facts and let the court reach its own conclusions.’ But here the biggest reason is more simple: the argument that State Farm derides as ridiculous is instead correct.
Challenging a parking ticket with the ParkMobile app, by Jeff Richardson, iPhone J.D.
If you work or live anywhere that uses ParkMobile as a replacement for old-fashioned parking meters, you are going to love this. Imagine the ability to pay, add time to your parking meter, or even reserve your parking spot. Mr. Richardson’s post provides more interesting details that you don’t want to miss.
I have already looked and yes, ParkMobile is in my state and on the street where I work. With this app, you can find, reserve, and pay for your parking spot in 350 cities. Look for your parking spot now at https://parkmobile.io/locations. Sweet. -CCE
6 Keys to Acing Discovery, by Katherine A. Hopkins, ABA Journal
Best advice in this well-written post? Know the case law in your Motion to Compel, know the court rules and follow them to the letter, and make it easy for the judge. -CCE
Avoid Hyperbole, by Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm, Persuasive Litigator™
What is hyperbole anyway? Here’s a quick example. How would you respond as opposing counsel to a statement that there are “countless obvious examples” of the opposing party’s errors? Perhaps, something like, “Oh really?” “Countless and obvious, you say? How interesting that you did not name anything specific. We did what any reasonable company would do in a similar situation.” And, then you must explain what you meant all over again – if you get the opportunity.
Simply put, hyperbole is deliberate exaggeration. Although often misguidedly used for emphasis, rhetoric, or even sarcasm, you invite an attack to prove your statement. At best, you may have illustrated that the other side’s behavior is outlandish. At worst, you have lost credibility with the court because you are unable to back up your statement with hard facts. Never imply a promise that you cannot deliver.
This is a good time to remember that your writing is more persuasive when you show, don’t tell. If the opposing party has behaved beyond the pale, telling the court or the jury what happened (who did what to whom and why) will be more persuasive than rhetorical outrage.
You will find in legal blogs on the use of hyperbole. This post is one of my favorites. As always, there is the bonus of hyperlinks to posts on similar subjects at the bottom of the page. -CCE
The Justice Manual (JM), formerly The United States Attorneys’ Manual (with hat tip to William Statsky)
This is the current and official copy of the Justice Manual (JM). The JM was previously known as the United States Attorneys’ Manual (USAM). It was comprehensively revised and renamed in 2018. Sections may be updated periodically. In general, the date of last revision will be noted at the end of each section. For prior versions of the USAM, visit the USAM Archive.
Take your time with this one. There is a lot of information to digest. -CCE