Over the last few years, I have noticed that some prosecutors hire outside lawyers to handle appellate work - mostly to write briefs. I was wondering whether that system worked and if anyone is still doing it.
(We used a contract lawyer for a couple of years to handle the extra caseload. We now have a full-time appellate lawyer.)
We hire outside lawyers to write briefs when we are too busy to do it ourselves. I have never been as pleased with their work as I have with my own staff, but it works in a pinch. The real problem comes with oral arguments. When no one in my office has written the brief, there is much more preparation for argument then. The best advice is to find a former briefing attorney for your Court of Appeals and hire him/her on a case by case basis.
Wouldn't it be great if instead of hiring defense attorneys to ghost write State briefs, prosecutors from other offices could be hired to work on them on their own time. Maybe TDCAA could act as a contact point for such offerings.
I do night duty twice a year doing intake and would far rather be writing briefs to make some extra money.
David: that is a good idea. Maybe we can get that going.
Is the State Prosecuting Attorney's office in Austin available for such briefs?
Come on, John, their salaries were cut and you now want them to do more work? My guess is that in a case Betty or Jeff thought might go against the State (and ultimately call for a PDR to be filed), they might get involved at the Appellee's Brief stage, but in the run-of-the-mill stuff, no way.
While I think it would be better for one prosecutor's office to hire an appellate specialist in another office rather than a member of the defense bar, I have found that this is a pretty tricky subject. You may have to explain why you are not doing the work yourself and you have to come up with a funding method (most commonly the forfeiture fund), although I suppose someone might be brave enough to include a line item in their budget for contract labor. There is also a group of retired judges (and people like Angela Moore) who compete for this business as well. In general, organizing and developing a system for delivery of this type service would benefit not only the underpaid, willing assistants, but the requesting CA/DA and public as well. There is a wonderful pool of talent out there that is probably not being utilized.
I had no problem putting a line item request in my budget for contract appellate labor. The commissioners would much rather pay that than the much more costly line item of a new position.
I really like the idea of TDCAA possibly serving as a contact point for contract labor appellate attorneys. Of course, it makes it difficult if they have to say anything about the quality of a particular lawyer's services.
If you read The Prosecutor, you might have noticed an ad by one attorney who promotes herself as providing that service.
The AG has a prosecutor assistance division. I know they provide, upon invitation of the DA, prosecutors for difficult local cases (e.g., death penalty and conflict of interest cases). Does anyone know if they provide appellate brief writing services upon invitation?
I suspect reputation plays a big part in getting any work.
If a county is looking for some contract labor, I know that I would be happy to pick up the occasional slack. Email me for credentials. I've worked in an appellate division and in a small jurisidiction with multiple responsibilities.
I am sure there would be a fairly sizeable group of us that would like to spend our extra time reading records from other places and who are well-qualified. So, back to the market survey. My guess is the need for this type of service is pretty sporadic, though some jurisdictions might consider outsourcing their work on a broad basis. Maybe the association could figure out a way to see how many offices would be interested.
Lisa, I know you all are willing to render prosecutors lots of assistance, but I rather doubt you draft appellate briefs upon request?
If Dan's jumping on this bandwagon, I'm there too.
We in Prosecutor Assistance have done briefs for local DAs in the past, but it seems like it has only been once or twice. And those cases were accepted, as I recall, because of very unusual circumstances that rendered the DA unable to meet the briefing deadlines.
The problem is that we already regularly handle the appeals and state habeas of the cases we accept for prosecution. Since there are only 6 of us, and many of our cases involve the death penalty, our appellate workload is a pretty good drain on our resources as it is. Sorry to not be more helpful, but it sounds like there are plenty of folks out there eager to pitch in.
I am new to the faculty at Texas Tech Law School. I am the director of our Criminal Prosecution Clinic, which places students with the Lubbock DA's Office to serve as "junior prosecutors" in County Court under the student practice rule.
This topic thread is very timely because I am interested in expanding our clinic. Specifically, I am exploring the possibility of having our clinic write appellate briefs, PRO BONO, for prosecutor's offices in the 7th Court of Appeals and statewide. Ideally, I would like students to be able to handle cases throughout the appeal, including at oral argument. Numerous law schools have civil and criminal defense clinics where students handle cases on appeal in state and federal court, including doing the oral arguments. However, since most state criminal cases are resolved "on the papers," I imagine our focus would be on the written aspect of appellate advocacy.
Knowing how swamped most DAs offices are (I was a prosecutor in Virginia before moving to Texas), I'd like to get a sense of how many y'all would be interested in this idea. If you're interested in either having our clinical students write briefs OR write briefs and handle oral arguments, please post here or e-mail me directly at email@example.com
Again, this is just an idea I'm floating at this point. It's helpful to know what sort of need is out there for pro bono prosecution appellate work before I go further with this idea.
What an excellent idea. As a student at UH Law Center, my work as an intern at the Harris County DA's office cemented my desire to work in criminal law. And there was an opportunity to participate in moot court for appellate practice. But there is nothing like trying the real thing to see if you like it.
There are certainly plenty of straightforward appeals that could be handled by law student under proper supervision. Frankly, the students would probably have a lot more time to think over the issues and polish their sentences than appellate lawyers have in busy offices.
Good luck with the idea. This was a good place for you to post it.
Finally, a Texas law school that provides an opportunity for law students to be exposed to prosecution as a career path. I went to law school to be a prosecutor and got no encouragement at all from my school. The clinic is a great idea and long overdue. Good for Tech. The idea of farming out appellate cases to the clinic is a good idea and our office would be amenable to exploring the idea further. Welcome to Texas and good luck with the program.
Has anyone had recent experience with contracting out appellate work? We have a member needing help with a brief due in September, and he would like suggestions on attorneys. Thanks!
Our office has used Rob Ramsey (Langley & Banack) for many years for major appellate work. He's successfully handled everything up to capital death. I would give him the absolute highest recommendation. Here is contact info for him:
rramsey at langleybanack dot com
sent you an email
There was no "Wanted Dead or Alive" attachment was there?
I'm saving that attachment for legal pleadings, David.
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