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Arguing before The Court of Appeals of Virginia

by Chris Booberg on January 20, 2015

I argued a case before a three judge panel of The Court of Appeals of Virginia this morning.  It is always an interesting experience when you are standing and presenting your case in front of three very bright judges.  I don't use a prepared statement, but have a detailed outline in my head and in my notes to make sure that I don't miss anything important. 

I don't have a prepared statement because that doesn't work with the Court of Appeals.  I was about one minute into my argument before the judge to my left stopped me to ask a question.  My answer to that question lead to a second question from the presiding judge who was seated in the center of the three judges. 

Fortunately, I had anticipated the questions and was able to use my answers to weave my argument back towards the points I was hoping to argue to the panel. 

I argue more often before juries than in front of appellate panels.  As you argue to a jury, you can sometimes see how you are doing based on the looks of the faces of the jurors.  Sometimes jurors nod or frown or won't make eye contact and you can use facial reactions and body language to gauge how your argument is being received.  The judges this morning were poker faced and didn't give me any indication of how I was doing beyond a couple of nods. 

Unlike a jury who will give me a grade on my performance minutes or hours after it is done, I will have to wait for weeks for The Court of Appeals of Virginia to tell me how my argument this morning was received.

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