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American Bar Association

Appellate Practice

Appellate Practice Committee


The Appellate Practice Committee strives to demystify the appellate process through its programs and the work of its subcommittees. Committee members monitor current developments in case law, proposed amendments to procedural rules, and proposals for legislation. Subcommittees also work on appellate institutes, the National Law Student Appellate Advocacy contest, program planning, and numerous special assignments.


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Programming at 2015 Section Annual Conference

The Appellate Practice Committee is sponsoring two programs at the upcoming Section Annual Conference in New Orleans, LA. The first program, entitled “U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and Civil Rights: Respect for the Rule of Law,” will occur on Thursday, April 16, at 1:30 p.m. This program focuses the Fifth Circuit’s historic journey to recognize and enforce the civil rights of African Americans. The distinguished panel will include Fifth Circuit Judge Stephen A. Higginson, Dr. Jack Bass (professor of humanities and social sciences emeritus at the College of Charleston), and Anne Emanuel (professor of law emerita at Georgia State University College of Law). The program will be moderated by Wayne J. Lee of Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann L.L.C. This program is co-sponsored with the Civil Rights Committee.

The second program, entitled “Oral Argument Gone Wrong,” will occur on Friday, April 17, at 3:00 p.m. This program centers on a mistake-ridden mock oral argument, followed by a discussion with the advocates and judges that analyzes the impact of each mistake and—more importantly—suggests practical tips for mistake avoidance. The panel will include Fifth Circuit Chief Judge Carl E. Stewart, Louisiana Court of Appeals Judge Ronald Belsome, and Igor Timofeyev (of Paul Hastings).

Committee Open Call

In March, we will have an open call in which all members, not just the committee and subcommittee chairs, can call in and participate. A listserv with the phone number and pass will be circulated.

Seeking Contributors

The Appellate Practice Committee is seeking authors to write for its website. Please contact Robert A. Vort or Sanford Hausler for more information.

Message from the Chairs

Welcome to the Appellate Practice Committee’s webpage. The committee looks forward to providing excellent substantive information and networking opportunities to all our members. We continue to deliver valuable content and updates to our members. Please continue to find us on social media and to visit our webpages.

Our committee’s program at the Section Annual Conference on April 10, 2014, was well received; several attendees praised it as the best in the entire conference. Thank you to all of those in our programming subcommittee who put it together, and to Kannon Shanmugam who moderated. The program was titled “Oral Argument From The Inside Out.” The advocates presented a mock oral argument on a search-and-seizure issue that was to take place in the U.S. Supreme Court shortly after they presented. The advocates, Kathleen Sullivan and Fred Rowley, shared with the audience, outside the presence of the judges, what issues were of concern to them. The panel of judges, Judge William Canby, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Judge Harris Hartz, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, and Judge Diane Johnsen, Arizona Court of Appeals, Division 1, also shared their thoughts outside the presence of the advocates. The chemistry was perfect between the panel and the advocates and the questions and responses were as good as it gets! We had a committee dinner arranged by Tom Donlon. Many committee members attended the dinner, as well as our former chair, Karen Precella, and some new faces. We also had a committee lunch and a committee business meeting. Our expo was fun—our young lawyers dressed as prisoners as they tried to get people to join our committee. You had to be there! Thank you to all the members and subcommittee chairs who attended and participated in the various events. Tom Donlon and Sonia O’Donnell took our appellate message to the Pretrial Practice and Discovery Committee in a program named “For the Record, from Start to Finish: Your Case on Appeal Can Be Greatly Improved by Focusing on Potential Appellate Issues at Every Step of the Litigation Process.” Tom informed the audience, every chance he had, of the importance of having an appellate practitioner early on in the litigation process.

Our next event is a regional CLE workshop on advanced appellate practice, hosted by the University of St. Thomas School of Law, on June 5, 2014, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The event will include programs on oral argument, brief writing, and the Supreme Court’s current docket.

We are also looking forward to our program for the ABA Annual Meeting titled “Oral Advocacy on Television: Lessons Learned from Television's Finest Fictional Lawyers.” Craig Turk of The Good Wife will be serving as moderator; confirmed participants include attorney Joan Lukey, Judge Dennis Saylor IV, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and Judge Andre Davis, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

Our spring newsletter was distributed on April 3, 2014. The newsletter has great articles including:
“Consequences of Mootness on Appeal”; “Don’t Let Misconceptions about Appeal Bonds Hinder Your Client’s Appeal”; “Denial of Motion to Quash Third-Party Subpoena Immediately Reviewable”; and “Finding Your Calling: Pro Bono as a Path to New Practice Areas.” We are always looking for articles. Please contact Victoria Dorfman or Brock Swartzle if you have any ideas or questions on future articles.

We are in the process of updating our book, A Practitioner’s Guide to Appellate Advocacy, thanks to Professor Anne Marie Lofaso. Thanks also to Larry Rosenberg and Tom Donlon, former chairs of the Committee, for their help on the project.

We hope to see many of you at the ABA Annual Meeting in August.

Sonia Escobio O'Donnell
The Honorable Joseph A. Greenaway, Third Circuit

Cochairs, Appellate Practice Committee



Our active subcommittees include:

  • Appellate Rules and Statutes
  • Appellate Practice Journal Board of Editors
  • Appellate Practitioner's Guide and Book
  • Website
  • Website "Sound Advice"
  • Member Services and Bar Liaison


  • Membership/Diversity
  • Professional and Social Networking
  • Pro Bono Appeals
  • Programming
  • Young Lawyers
  • State Court Appellate Practice
  • Amicus Brief

Find contact information for committee and subcommittee chairs:


Spotlight on Subcommittees

Membership and Diversity Recruitment Subcommittee

This subcommittee focuses on efforts to expand our committee's membership through membership drives, community outreach events, and presentations to other legal organizations. In addition, it works with new members to find subcommittees within the Appellate Practice Committee where they can be active participants. The subcommittee also encourages diversity and inclusion in committee membership, leadership, and member services. This subcommittee works closely with our Member Service and Bar Liaison and Young Lawyers Subcommittees in accomplishing these objectives.

More Subcommittee Descriptions


Appellate Practice Leadership

Cochairs Web Editors Newsletter Editors
Sonia O'Donnell

Miami, FL

Joseph A. Greenaway, Third Circuit

Newark, NJ

Sanford Hausler

New York, NY

Robert A. Vort

Hackensack, NJ

Victoria Dorfman

New York, NY

Brock Swartzle

Detroit, MI