Helping Trial Lawyers Navigate the Appellate System

Ch- Ch- Ch- Ch- Changes

I don’t talk politics here, but it’s hard to ignore what happened to the intermediate Texas appellate courts last night. Statewide, dozens of incumbent justices—many of whom are great at their jobs and deserved to keep them—were swept out of office, some by challengers who are either completely unknown or who have little to no experience representing clients before appellate courts.

The new justices will have to learn fast. “New judges school” and those left behind will have their hands full educating them on the finer points of their new jobs. I think we can expect delays in almost every aspect of the courts’ work and, unfortunately, panels to be divided along party lines. The Texas Supreme Court—which remains all-Republican and will not change composition come January 1—will feel the effects too.

In this new reality, I think the role of experienced appellate practitioners will be more significant than ever. We are most effective when we assist courts in understanding the case, the law, and how to reach a reasoned outcome faithful to both. Though change is hard, I plan to continue doing just that.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Piano Piano!

D. Todd Smith
About the Author

D. Todd Smith is an Austin-based civil appellate specialist who works with trial teams from the earliest stages of litigation. In trial courts, he takes the lead on strategic analysis and briefing, jury charges, and potentially dispositive motions, all with a focus on preserving error and positioning cases for appellate review.

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