iPad and Oral Advocacy

Ready To Argue. Originally uploaded by Dineen.

This week I had oral argument before Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal in Daytona, and I decided to travel light. In the past when preparing for oral argument, I would, in the course of following my own advice, put together a notebook (or two!) with marked-up copies of the cases and the most important record excerpts. Not only would I use that book to prepare, but I would carry it with me like a security blanket, as a back up in case we needed to quote from a case or from something in the record.

But this time, I had my iPad. I have come to be convinced that an iPad loaded with the GoodReader App is one of the best tools for lawyers to come around in many years. Synced with Dropbox, I have in a neat little electronic package all of the research I’ve done since I’ve purchased my iPad at my fingertips. GoodReader allows me read and annotate case law like a dream — I get all of my nice neat red underlines and yellow highlights and typed notations saved on a .pdf of the case. If I want to send the case to a colleague, I can do so with or without my annotations. And because it’s all electronic, it’s easily searchable, and I can put my hands on a library of marked up cases so much more easily than when I was trying to maintain paper research files. I can search file names through GoodReader, or search the substance of the files using either my Mac’s or my Windows box’s onboard search function.

Pre-iPad, I would have schlepped the notebook or two with me to Daytona, trying to juggle all of that paper as I reviewed and prepared and even as I approached the podium — and likely not looked at the book once I was at the podium. But this week, I had with me at the podium the briefs, my one sheet of argument notes, and my iPad, with the 6 or 7 most likely items I might want to refer to open and easily tabbed between. The screen capture to the right is a recreation/approximation of how I was ready to go for argument.

Afterward, I joked to my friends: “Instead of looking like a pack mule and not ever looking at any of it, I looked sleek and techno-savvy and never looked at it.” If I am going to have a security blanket, it is so very much easier for it to be a simple, thin electronic device rather than a huge notebook. I am sure the trees are thankful, too. And kudos to the Fifth District Court of Appeal for allowing me to carry in my electronic security blanket.

Update: Per Curiam Affirmed. For Appellee, that’s a win!

Denial of Intervention is Final Appealable Order

If a third party seeks to intervene in a state court lawsuit, is the denial of the motion to intervene a final, appealable order? The Court in Superior Fence and Rail of North Florida v James O. Lucas, No. 5D09-4213 (May 14, 2010)(en banc)[.pdf] says yes. Receding from prior opinions requiring such review to be accomplished by certiorari, the Court explained that “an order denying a motion to intervene is appealable as a matter of right, by plenary appeal, because the order constitutes a final determination of the proceeding as to the parties seeking to intervene.” In a footnote, the Court noted that the granting of a motion to intervene is still an interlocutory order reviewable by writ of certiorari.

This pronouncement did not do much for the Appellant, however. The Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of the Appellant’s motion to intervene.

No Record, New Trial

Some state court litigators scoff at the need for paying for a court reporter’s presence at trial. But the importance of having an adequate record on appeal cannot be over-emphasized. In some instances, the absence of a record has caused the courts to dismiss an appeal entirely. But the Fifth DCA recently went one step further and ordered a new trial, even though a technological malfunction, not party failure to preserve the record, was to blame for the lack of a transcript.

Practice Lesson: If there is any chance of appealable error — and isn’t there always? — ensure you get a transcript!