September 30, 2013 Articles

Book Review: Federal Court of Appeals Manual

A required resource for any appellate practitioner.

By Dennis Owens

David G. Knibb
Federal Court of Appeals Manual: A Manual on Practice in the United States Courts of Appeals
Sixth Edition, Thomson Reuters

This book is a classic. You cannot say that about too many appellate practice books. The first edition (1981) was immediately accepted as being highly useful, dependable, practical, and intelligent. It has its own niche. It bridges the gap between a general “how to” book on appeals and the needs of experienced federal appellate practitioners. One feature that sets this manual apart is that Mr. Knibb insists on citing examples of how courts actually apply rules or principles. He writes, “I do not ignore what the courts say, but I am more interested in what they do. Whether it is application of the collateral order doctrine or excusable neglect, I believe the examples are a better guide to what the law really is and where it is headed than any attempts . . . to restate it.”

The citations are not exhaustive, but entirely sufficient. We do not need a case from every circuit if most circuits agree on a point. This is a manual, not an encyclopedia.

One of the unusual features of this book is that the text is presented as answers to 299 questions. These range from “Must you date a notice of appeal?” to “How should you draft the argument [in a brief]?” The author also provides 65 forms. These fit into two categories: the most commonly needed and those that a lawyer may feel the least comfortable in crafting.

Also available from the publisher is a companion softcover volume entitled Local Rules. This is a bit of a misnomer because it includes the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure as well. Each of the circuit rules has its own index. This supplementary volume is quite handy.

This is a very good book. We have used its various editions for over 30 years and it has proved its worth. Mr. Knibb is a highly respected appellate practitioner who writes carefully, thoughtfully, and concisely. Again and again, this handbook will prove to be just what you need as you cope with the many problems that can arise in an appeal.

As we stated in reviews of those earlier editions, on many questions this manual is the first source for the appellate practitioner. And for many questions, it is the only source you will need.

Keywords: litigation, appellate practice, forms, local rules, federal rules, circuit rules

Dennis Owens practices appellate law in Kansas City, Missouri.

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