Earlier this week Law360 Appellate featured an article with the unnecessary vulgar title How to Kick Ass at Federal Circuit Oral Arguments. The article noted that the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals features highly prepared judges who ask tough questions, thus making it imperative for oral advocates to show up with their best game. To be sure, the Federal Circuit has very limited jurisdiction (e.g., appeals involving patents and trademarks, international trade, takings claims against the federal government, and government contracts), so the judges presumably have specialized knowledge in these areas. That said, all of the special advice offered in the article seems equally relevant to any appellate argument.
1. Know the Record Cold - have a cheat sheet handy with specific record references to key parts of the record.
2. Moot it Out - brainstorm questions and practice answering out loud.
3. Distill the Argument; Prioritize Key Points - know how you want to start and important points you must make before you finish.
4. Answer directly - don't deflect - the Judges' Questions.
5. Connect with the Panel - show respect for the judges.
Also, speaking of self-defense, see yesterday's Eslinger v. United Studios of Self-Defense, for an interesting tale of appealability that ends up with a dismissal.
Finally, on the topic of lightning speed, reader Kent Quian points out this rare find -- a 9th Cir. published opinion and dissent issued a mere month after oral argument.