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January 08, 2021 Appellate Judges Conference | Council of Appellate Lawyers

CAL Chair's Column

By Brian Miller, Corpus Christi, TX

With our virtual Annual Meeting on November 13, the Council of Appellate Lawyers (CAL) wrapped up a most unique year.

My predecessor as chair, Deena Schneider, deserves much praise for her leadership in a year of unexpected transition. Our plans for live meetings and programs were transformed into a year of Zoom meetings and increased delivery of online content. Deena kept us moving forward.

In serving as CAL’s chair this year, I am very grateful to have the help of Chair-Elect Mark Kressel, Secretary Kirsten Castaneda, our excellent board members and committee chairs, and our many volunteers. I look forward to working with all of you!


Through their good work, Deena, Jill Wheaton (last year’s Programming Committee Chair), and several others built a sound foundation for future CAL programming. Our May webinar “Appellate Advocacy in the Age of COVID-19” was an absolute success – and if you haven’t watched it yet, you can access it free on demand as a member benefit. Plans are in place for a “Riding the Circuits” series of webinars that will inform members about practices and developments in federal appellate courts. We are also considering proposals for programs to advance members’ skills and provide practice updates. If you have a program idea, please let us know!

Our programming offerings also include collaborations with other groups. In August, we co-sponsored the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section’s webinar “Legal Writing: A Judge’s Perspective on the Science and Rhetoric of the Written Word.” Our co-sponsorship allowed CAL members to obtain a discounted price of $39 for that excellent presentation by Tenth Circuit Judge Robert Bacharach. In October, we assisted the Appellate Judges Education Institute (AJEI) and the National Judicial College (NJC) with “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Least Biased of Us All?” – a webinar on implicit bias. Our members also benefitted from another AJEI and NJC program, the annual Supreme Court update by Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of Berkeley Law. We thank AJEI and NJC for making those free online programs available to mitigate the loss of an in-person AJEI Summit this fall.

This year’s Programming Committee Co-Chairs Katie Barrett Wiik and Karen Precella are ready to continue Jill’s great work – both online and in-person. When in-person meetings resume, we will be as active as ever in presenting live programs.

Jill has agreed to serve in the always-important role of CAL’s Summit Chair. She will lead our preparations for the 2021 AJEI Summit, which is set for November 11 to 14 in Austin. Following the record attendance for the 2019 Summit, we expect the 2021 Summit to be one of the most anticipated and well-attended Summits ever.

The 2021 Summit will include programs and speakers pulled from the 2020 lineup. Many thanks go to Anna Manasco for her work as CAL’s Summit Chair for the 2020 Summit and to the many others that helped with Summit plans.


Nancy Olson will continue her great work as editor for our periodical Appellate Issues. Every issue is a well-delivered presentation of tips and updates for appellate lawyers. The publication depends on willing authors, and what better source of authors than appellate lawyers! If you have an idea, please share it with Nancy. The readers of Appellate Issues will appreciate your contribution.

We are also planning a short monthly newsletter as an additional way to communicate with members. The newsletter will update you on CAL events, inform you of the work of our committees, and provide other useful information in a quick-read format.


A longtime goal of CAL was to fill a State Chairs Committee that would facilitate recruitment of and outreach to members in all 50 states. Thanks to the leadership of Co-Chairs Richard Kraus, Gretchen Sperry, and Cindy Timms, we have only one state to go.


CAL’s success depends on the efforts of volunteers. We are fortunate that appellate-practice leaders from coast to coast are committed to CAL’s success. We can always use more help, and we are sure that you would enjoy working with great appellate lawyers and judges from around the country.

If you are curious about writing on appellate topics, promoting appellate pro bono efforts, developing CLE programs, or helping us in any other way, please contact me . Every CAL leader and volunteer was new once, and CAL’s future depends on adding new leaders and volunteers. Please join us!

Mr. Brian Miller

Mr. Brian Miller

2020-2021 Council of Appellate Lawyers Chair