Northern California legal community gathers to learn ins and outs of 3rd District Court of Appeal

Published: Saturday, Sep. 21, 2013 - 11:07 pm

More than 100 of the brightest legal lights in Northeast California gathered Saturday to learn more about the state appellate court based in Sacramento.

Attendees included appellate practitioners and Superior Court judges from the 23 counties over which the 3rd District Court of Appeal exercises jurisdiction.

They listened to a lively panel discussion on how appeals and writs are processed. They were treated to a slide show and compelling lecture on the history of the court and its newly renovated and restored building. They broke into rotating small groups for informal conversations with justices in their chambers.

By including David Hall and Tim Schooley, the court’s principal attorney and supervising attorney, respectively, the panel discussion offered a rare peek behind the scenes. They were joined by retired 3rd District Presiding Justice Arthur G. Scotland.

Hall was particularly enlightening in explaining the nuts and bolts of what happens to a case from the time it is filed until it reaches preparation for oral argument before a panel of the justices.

Some of the discussion focused on what is and is not appealable.

Scotland emphasized the importance of the briefs and how those of low quality can be very costly to attorneys who submit them and their clients. For material in the lower court record that is discussed in briefs, precise locations in the record must be cited, he stressed. Without that, the material will be ignored.

“It’s not the court’s job to go searching through a voluminous record for something mentioned in a brief,” Scotland said. “The court’s not going to do your work for you.

“A brief has to help the court,” he added. “It should be clear and concise.”

Scotland had one more piece of advice for the attendees: “Never attack trial judges.” That, he said, is almost sure to be counterproductive.

Charity Kenyon, who recently retired after 35 years of practicing law in Sacramento, moderated the discussion. She kept things moving at a brisk pace, firing questions – and sometimes acerbic comments – at the three panelists. One observer later remarked, “She didn’t let them get by with anything.”

Kenyon was honored during a Friday evening reception as a mainstay of the court’s mediation program.

“One of the outstanding appellate lawyers in California,” said Presiding Justice Vance W. Raye in announcing the award.

Approximately 129 attorneys and retired judges throughout the district serve as mediators, and they settle 76 percent of the cases referred to them. This major avoidance of litigation saves the court a significant amount of time and money.

Jeff Hogue, chambers attorney for Associate Justice George Nicholson, carried the day for eloquence. Rarely referring to notes and expertly using slide photos to illustrate his remarks, he smoothly guided his audience through a 3rd District history lesson.

He opened the presentation by noting that the court “has its roots in the Civil War.” Two of the first three members appointed to the newly created court in 1905 by Gov. George Pardee had distinguished themselves during the war.

Presiding Justice Norton Parker Chipman was a Union officer and was seriously wounded at the Battle of Fort Donelson in 1862. He eventually served in the Bureau of Military Justice in Washington, D.C., and accompanied President Abraham Lincoln to Gettysburg in 1863 and sat with Lincoln on a platform for dignitaries during the dedication of the cemetery. Chipman moved to Red Bluff in 1876.

Associate Justice Abraham Jay Buckles joined the Union army at 15. He was wounded four times in four separate battles, and his right leg was amputated after he was shot through the knee at Hatcher’s Run. By the time he was discharged – just 15 days before the South’s surrender – the 19-year-old had risen to the rank of second lieutenant. He returned to his native Indiana and was later awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism during the Battle of the Wilderness. He became a teacher while he read the law, then moved to Dixon in 1875, where he began his career as an attorney.

The third original member of the court, Charles Emmett McLaughlin, was the youngest of the three. He was a native of Plumas County.

Hogue recounted the history – bolstered by arresting color slides – of the Stanley Mosk Library & Courts Building, home of the 3rd District. It opened in 1928 on the circle immediately west of the Capitol.

In a video Hogue earlier played for the audience, in which Raye welcomed the guests, the presiding justice described the structure as “one of the most beautiful court buildings in the nation.” A tour of the place leaves no room for argument.

A masterwork of neoclassical design, the landmark is rich with Edward Field Sanford sculptures and statues, Italian marble colonnades, a Sierra White granite lobby, Maynard Dixon and Frank Van Sloun narrative murals, mosaic floors, emblematic friezes, and soaring, palatial ceilings.

Call The Bee’s Denny Walsh, (916) 321-1189.

Read more articles by Denny Walsh

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