Criminal Bar Association stays current on appellate court practice

November 25, 2013 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The Kings County Criminal Bar Association (KCCBA) held its monthly Continuing Legal Education (CLE) meeting at the Brooklyn Bar Association on Thursday night and invited a prominent judge and a trial attorney who gave tips on proper procedure in the Appellate Court.

Hon. John W. Sweeny Jr., associate justice in the Appellate Division, First Department; and Richard E. Mischel, Esq., named partner at the Manhattan law firm Mischel & Horn, P.C., gave their tips from their own experiences working in the Appellate Court during a program titled “Appellate Law Review: Tips for the Criminal Trial Practitioner.”

“We were proud to have such a distinguished judge and litigator come and speak with us,” KCCBA President Jay H. Schwitzman said. “They’re very knowledgeable in appellate law, and prosecutors and attorneys need to stay up on appellate law in order to be effective practitioners. So we had Judge Sweeny and Richard Mischel, two of the best on appellate law, to come educate us.”

Schwitzman commented that the idea of bringing together a judge and an attorney on the same stage was to “ balance the two so you don’t just have one person dominating.  You have the perspective from each side talking about what their experience has been, as opposed to having a judge tell us ‘do this and don’t do this.’He can explain something, and the litigant can tell us how he approaches it. You want that balance from the two sides.”

Sweeny, who has participated in dozens of CLEs during his career, explained that he focuses on trying to impart practical experience rather than something lawyers can get from a book.

“I give actual observations of an appellate judge from things I’ve seen from almost 10 years of working in the Appellate Court,” Sweeny said. “There are things that you should do, things you should avoid, certain things that work or don’t work. There are tactics that they can use that will be effective and others to avoid. These are things that you can’t get from a book or from a class, as opposed to talking lawyer to lawyer. “

Sweeny also explained that it is important for even experienced attorneys to keep up with this topic, as the appellate court evolves so much over time.

“It’s very difficult for lawyers to get a grasp of this topic,” Sweeny explained. “There are certain substantive areas of the law A, B, C, D, and you know what they are. Interest of justice is a little more subjective in a court’s mind. There are certain parameters and guidelines that we have to look at, but each client is different, each case is different, the request for the interest of justice and what the lawyer wants us to do with it is different.

“It’s something that I try to give my best perspective from how I do it and approach it as opposed to something that you could just read in a book. Hopefully, that’s what I imparted on them tonight.”

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