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April 23, 2024 Appellate Judges Conference

Council of Appellate Lawyers Chair's Column

Jill Wheaton, Ann Arbor, MI

Council of Appellate Lawyers (CAL) is off to a great start!


I am excited to announce that we have two new programming chairs, Mark Magyar of Dykema Gossett in Lansing, Mich., and Julie Murray of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Washington, D.C. Huge thanks to them for taking on one of our most active committees. CAL will continue our “Riding the Circuits” series of webinars that discuss unique practices, preferences, and developments in a specific federal appellate court. To date, we have presented programs on the Third, Sixth and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals, and in 2024, we will cover the Fifth and First Circuits. We also have a similar series of programs, entitled Tips for the Unwary, that covers significant differences among appellate practice in neighboring state-court systems. The next in this series will be held April 30, focusing on the Southwest, particularly, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. Both ongoing webinar series have been popular, with good attendance at the live webinars and many later viewings, and we hope that continues.

We are well into preparations for the 2024 Appellate Judges Education Institute (AJEI) Summit, which will be held November 14 to 17 in Boston. The Summit planning committee consists of members of CAL, the Appellate Judges Conference, the Council of Appellate Staff Attorneys, and the National Judicial College. Five members of CAL are serving on the committee this year -- myself, former CAL chair and solo practitioner Deena Schneider of Philadelphia, John Baker of Greene Espel in Minneapolis, Jonathan Potter of the U.S. Army Appellate Division in Washington, D.C., and CAL Chair-Elect Gretchen Sperry of Gordon Rees in Chicago. We are excited about how the Summit is coming together!


The Winter 2024 issue of Appellate Issues is now available. As per our recent practice, it consists of summaries of each program presented at the 2023 AJEI Summit, held last November in Washington, D.C. Let me express our thanks to the 19 Summit attendees who served as authors for this newsletter. We can’t do it without such gracious volunteers.

Pro bono

Our pro bono committee is looking into creating a “match-making” program, to connect pro bono groups that are looking for authors of amicus briefs and appellate attorneys who are looking for opportunities to author pro bono amicus briefs. We are excited to see how this clever idea develops.

New committees and new committee chairs

We are happy to report an influx of CAL members who want to take leadership roles. This allows us to revive committees that became somewhat dormant due to lack of a chairperson. Thanks to Brian Keller, of the Navy-Marine Corps Appellate Division in Washington, D.C., for agreeing to head the Government Lawyers committee, and to Kirk Cooper, of Cooper Appeals PLLC in El Paso, Tex., for taking on the Solo Practice and Small Firms Committee. Last, but certainly not least, we have formed two new committees this year. The Law Student Outreach committee will work on publicizing CAL and appellate practice to law students. Jay Breakstone, of the Breakstone Law Firm in Bellmore, N.Y., is the leader of that committee. The Social Media committee, led by Gretchen Sperry, will publicize CAL and CAL programs, and discuss appellate issues generally, on various social-media platforms.

We can always use more active CAL members. If you have any program ideas, an article you would like to write, an interest in pro bono activities, or a desire to help with anything discussed above or on our website, please contact me at [email protected], and we will be glad to welcome you aboard. And, as always, sincere thanks to the CAL Executive Board and committee chairs and members for all that they do for our organization.

Jill Wheaton

2023-2024 Chair, AJC Council of Appellate Lawyers

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