Thursday, May 13, 2010

See if Anything Sticks

In reading appellate cases lately, I've noticed that in many of them the appellant raises 10 or more issues on appeal.  Sometime the Court writes substantively about each one, but more times than not, the court summarily dismisses several of the issues while focusing on only one or two in its opinion.  This has got me thinking...would it be more beneficial for appellate defense counsel to more narrowly focus their appellate challenge to the most arguably meritorious of claims forget about the rest of them?  Do they lose credibility with the Court by raising claims that are sure to fail?  Or is it their duty to their client to throw as much stuff against the wall hoping that something will stick?

It seems to me, and take this for what it's worth from a guy who only reads the opinions and doesn't argue the cases, that a Court would be more likely to seriously consider the appellate challenge of an appellant when he says:
Look here, I lost at trial.  I understand that.  I'm not going to waste your time by raising every little potential error that I will surely lose on the standard of review or a harm analysis.  But here are the three reasons why you should set aside my conviction. Just three.  Surely you have the time to consider these three issues.  By the way, I have caselaw that backs up my position.
In a perfect world, I guess, we would always have three meritorious appellate issues backed by caselaw.  Heck, every lawyer out there would settle for just one meritorious issue.  Anyway, this post is just me thinking out loud.  Perhaps raising 20 appellate issues isn't always best for your client.  Perhaps it is.