September 01, 2015

Transitioning from Judge to Advocate

Mary Jane Trapp

It was the night before my first oral argument since leaving the appellate bench, and I could not sleep. It had been more than eight years since I last stood before a three-judge panel. I knew the record cold even though I had been retained on appeal. The trial attorneys did their job making the record. Errors were preserved, proffers made so I would not have to argue the dreaded plain error. I knew the controlling cases from memory, good and bad. In fact, I wrote one of the opinions on the same issue. I knew my appellate panel. I was elated to find the trial judge who wrote the seminal cases sitting on my panel. Knowing that judges enthusiastically discuss their own cases in argument, I was relieved that I would not have to distinguish this judge’s cases away.

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