An Associate's Reflections on Her First Oral Argument


I had several appeals pending earlier this year, so it wasn’t a complete surprise when I received the order from the Florida Third District Court of Appeal setting one of them for oral argument. I had been waiting for this opportunity since law school. Although this would be my first real oral argument, I had (or thought I had) some experience with appellate arguments through participating in my law school’s moot-court program and clerking for an appellate judge. What I didn’t realize is that nothing can really prepare you for your first oral argument—except, of course, preparation itself.

About a month before the scheduled argument, I got anxious. What if I had missed an issue in my brief? What if I had misstated the holding of a case? What if I couldn’t answer a judge’s question? The issues on appeal were similar to many I had encountered before—a relatively straightforward appeal of a mortgage-foreclosure judgment. Because Florida is a judicial- foreclosure state, the bank filed suit to foreclose after the borrower defaulted. After a non-jury trial, the court entered final judgment of foreclosure to the bank, and the borrower appealed. The borrower raised several issues on appeal regarding the bank’s standing to foreclose and evidence admitted at trial, but there was no dispute that the borrower had been in default on the loan for over five years. I drafted the appellee’s brief on behalf of the bank several months before the case was set for oral argument and, at the time, didn’t think that the case was particularly argument-worthy. So why did the court order oral argument in this case?

Originally published in Section of Litigation: Appellate Practice, published by the American Bar Association on July 1, 2014.

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