Cooley Law School honors scholarly briefs submitted to Michigan Supreme Court

By Cynthia Price
Legal News

For the 32nd year, Western Michigan University Cooley Law School has chosen what a panel of judges deems to be the best briefs submitted before the Michigan Supreme Court (MSC).

The winning briefs that were recognized during the ceremony included:

• Case Name: Kevin S. Reffitt v. Dawn M. Bachi-Reffitt.
Law Firm: Bursch Law PLLC.
Attorney: John J. Bursch.

• Case Name: Kevin S. Reffitt v. Dawn M. Bachi-Reffitt.
Law Firm: Warner Norcross & Judd LLP.
Attorney: Conor B. Dugan.

• Case Name: Freemont Insurance Company v. Gro-Green Farms Inc.
Law Firm: Bursch Law PLLC.
Attorney: John J. Bursch.

• Case Name: Freemont Insurance Company v. Gro-Green Farms Inc.
Law Firm: Warner Norcross & Judd LLP.
Attorney: Matthew T. Nelson.

• Case Name: Freemont Insurance Company v. Gro-Green Farms Inc.
Law Firm: Stertz & Weaver PC.
Attorney: H. William Stertz.

• Case Name: Freemont Insurance Company v. Gro-Green Farms Inc.
Law Firm: Stertz & Weaver PC.
Attorney: Michael E. Korn.

Unfortunately, none of the awardees were able to attend the July 27 ceremony in Lansing. “It feels strange not to hand out an award,” said WMU-Cooley Professor Mark Cooney.

Cooney organized the event along with Law Review Symposium editors Errin Kane and Alysha Warren and other students; he has been involved for many years, and actually won the award when he was in private practice before joining the faculty.

Cooney is also the editor-in-chief of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, and contributes to the State Bar’s Michigan Bar Journal “Plain Language”column. He teaches Research and Writing, and Advanced Writing courses for WMU-Cooley.

He introduced the evening’s keynote speaker in glowing terms. “As speakers, we’ve had a lot of judges – Court of Appeals Judges and MSC justices — but I really love it when we break that once in a while and have an actual working lawyer, someone who’s working on those briefs and really knows what goes into it,” Cooney said. “I’m thrilled to introduce you tonight to one of Michigan’s truly outstanding appellate attorneys, Tim Baughman.”

Baughman is currently a special assistant prosecuting attorney with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, having retired as that office’s chief of research, training, and appeals in 2015. He made seven appearances before the U.S. Supreme Court and more than 75 in the MSC over his 42-year career. He also served as the reporter for the MSC Committee to Revise the Rules of Criminal Procedure, and is on the Model Criminal Jury Instructions Committee.

He is also, through experience and study, an expert on the Michigan Supreme Court’s workings. He noted that when he started practicing, the Michigan body did not have a regular term, so it could be years after briefing and argument that they would hand down a decision. He also told the mostly-student audience about the increased use, and occasional frustrations, of Mini Oral Arguments.

But his main focus was on briefs, and how to write a good one for the various purposes that come up when practicing at the appellate level.

“Remember when you’re writing for leave to appeal, it isn’t to win – it’s to get the court’s attention so they’ll hear your case,” Baughman said.

Following the philosophy of author and speaker Bryan Garner, who wrote “The Winning Brief” among other books, Baughman noted that the most important element is likely the  issues framing statement. He advised that it is no longer deemed necessary to confine that to one sentence, but that any writing in a brief should be direct and clear, and as simple as possible.

Following Baughman’s speech, Cooney again took the stage. He thanked the judges panel: Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina,  Michigan Court of Appeals Judges Kathleen Jansen and Michael Riordan, Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul Denenfeld, Prof. Bradley Charles, Prof. David Finnegan, and Prof. David Tarrien. Cooney is himself a judge.

The panel uses seven criteria to make their decision – question presented, point headings, statement of case, argument and analysis, style, mechanics and best overall brief.

Comments

  1. No comments
Sign in to post a comment »