1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

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Anonymous User
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1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 18, 2012 9:55 am

I'm still working on not being a dick. Aside from that, what else can I do now to prepare for a judicial internship?

I'm going to read some of the judge's opinions and re-read the bluebook.

Would any clerks or former interns share what they think makes good summer interns? How can a summer intern add value?

Thanks.

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beachbum
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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby beachbum » Fri May 18, 2012 10:12 am

This is relevant to my interests.

ak362
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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby ak362 » Fri May 18, 2012 10:30 am

Depends what kind of court you're working at. I speak from the state supreme court internship perspective (soon to clerk for a federal COA), but here goes:

1) Familiarize yourself with your court's style/citation guides. Courts sometimes deviate from the Bluebook. (Gasp, I know). For instance, the DCCA requires a parallel citation for all D.C. Circuit opinion citations.

2) Ask for a sample memo from one of the clerks to see what the chambers-approved writing style is like. For producing internal memoranda, some judges don't particularly care, others want you to follow a particular format. In the latter case, follow, follow, and follow.

3) Learn how to edit quickly and efficiently. (I realize the irony of my saying this as this post is riddled with redundancies and errors, but . . . it's a TLS post.) You'll need this skill for LR or journal anyway, but whenever I turn in work product I always read through it two to three times over. I red-line the hell out of my own work. Your writing will never be perfect, but your job is to get it as close to perfect as can be within the time constraints you're working with.

4) Make friends with your court librarian.

5) Some chambers ask interns for their opinions on particular cases heard -- our judge would sit down after oral arguments and conference about particular cases and ask for your thoughts. If this happens to you, don't be afraid to voice your thoughts, but be prepared to substantively defend yourself (in other words, don't make a point if you haven't done the research to back it up). And always, always, always maintain the utmost respect for the judge you work for and his/her law clerks, as well as your fellow interns.

6) Be honest with your judge/the law clerk that you work with. If you're having problems, don't sit on them hoping for quiet resolution or dig yourself into a massive hole by trying to fix them yourself. If you've made a mistake, tell your judge/law clerk -- and as soon as possible. Live up to the duty of candor -- as a judge alum of ours likes to say, no legal mistake is irreversible except for death penalty cases (not entirely true, but . . . ) -- and as an intern you won't be assigned DP cases anyway.

7) In opinion writing, don't sacrifice the substance of the opinion for the sake of spending time trying to match your judge's "voice" -- the judge will make his/her corrections regardless of what you do. Some people try to spend too much time adding just the right amount of rhetorical flourish when it is completely unnecessary.

8 ) Learn how to research. I can't emphasize this enough. You can't imagine how much time you'll waste on Westlaw/Lexis running boolean searches until the cows come home when you could simply pop over to the library, pull a book off the shelf, see what the case law is in your jx/federal practice, and THEN proceed to do a more precise Westlaw/Lexis search using Keynumbers/Headnotes and the like. Hornbooks, treatises, jurisdictional encyclopedias -- they are all your friends. So is that Westlaw chat rep, in case you get desperate.

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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 18, 2012 12:03 pm

I think the number one tip is to be humble and not to expect to do amazing, substantive work. Of course, it's great if you will be able to draft bench memos and proposed dispositions, but in some chambers, you will be treated like Dobby the House Elf and be consigned to menial work (fetching lunch for the clerks when they're in crunch mode, making photocopies, doing the JA's bidding). In fact, the clerks may view you as an annoyance, since they will have to take time away from their own work to train you and fix your mistakes. Just try to stay positive, even if the internship is not the experience you want it to be.

The second tip is to avoid obnoxious brownnosing. In some chambers, the judge does not want to have anything to do with externs. They are functionally the law clerks' help, so the judge won't need to interact with them. Constantly trying to get one-on-one time with the judge will not leave a good impression. Ditto for the clerks, who might not necessarily want to spend their summer being your mentor and holding your hand.

Sorry if this sounds harsh, but I have worked with several summer externs during my COA clerkship and found that most of them were disasters. The ones who succeeded had the best attitude and lowest expectations. Good luck.

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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby adonai » Fri May 18, 2012 2:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I think the number one tip is to be humble and not to expect to do amazing, substantive work. Of course, it's great if you will be able to draft bench memos and proposed dispositions, but in some chambers, you will be treated like Dobby the House Elf and be consigned to menial work (fetching lunch for the clerks when they're in crunch mode, making photocopies, doing the JA's bidding). In fact, the clerks may view you as an annoyance, since they will have to take time away from their own work to train you and fix your mistakes. Just try to stay positive, even if the internship is not the experience you want it to be.

The second tip is to avoid obnoxious brownnosing. In some chambers, the judge does not want to have anything to do with externs. They are functionally the law clerks' help, so the judge won't need to interact with them. Constantly trying to get one-on-one time with the judge will not leave a good impression. Ditto for the clerks, who might not necessarily want to spend their summer being your mentor and holding your hand.

Sorry if this sounds harsh, but I have worked with several summer externs during my COA clerkship and found that most of them were disasters. The ones who succeeded had the best attitude and lowest expectations. Good luck.

So what exactly do externs do at your chambers? No interaction with anybody, no substantive legal work, but deliver food? If externs are such a huge pain, why are they even taken? If no one is benefiting, there really seems to be no point. Seems to be a huge disservice to yourselves and the students.

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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby cantaboot » Fri May 18, 2012 2:38 pm

^ curious to know too.

I was an intern for a judge. My co-intern and I were both well behaved and quiet type - maybe more quiet than we normally were because it was a courthouse. Neither of us created troubles. Neither was a disaster in any way. One clerk teased us for being a little too 'shy' and reserved.

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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 18, 2012 3:13 pm

Anonymous User wrote:So what exactly do externs do at your chambers? No interaction with anybody, no substantive legal work, but deliver food? If externs are such a huge pain, why are they even taken? If no one is benefiting, there really seems to be no point. Seems to be a huge disservice to yourselves and the students.


To clarify, I clerked for a feeder-type judge on one of the busiest COAs. My judge hired externs primarily as a favor to professor/dean friends pushing the externs on us. The externs interacted with each other primarily, but the clerks had lunch with them every day. We tried giving the externs substantive work, like memos on discrete questions. Some externs did great work--enough to work their way up to an entire bench memo by summer's end. The ones who didn't were the ones who got the more menial assignments, such as putting together bench books.

The problem is that we were so busy with our own work that it was difficult to spend the time required to be good mentors. Not every COA is that way, of course, but when you are slammed, it's hard to sit down with them and go through pages and pages of sloppy Bluebooking and poorly reasoned analysis. I agree that the externships were largely a waste of time for everyone involved, in terms of being a learning experience, but at least the externs got to see the inner workings of chambers and have a very nice line on their resume. The judge also went to bat for former externs when they were applying for clerkships.

Every chambers is different, so the OP may have a completely different and much more pleasant experience. But it's good to know the dark side, so that expectations aren't unrealistic.

adonai
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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby adonai » Fri May 18, 2012 3:29 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:So what exactly do externs do at your chambers? No interaction with anybody, no substantive legal work, but deliver food? If externs are such a huge pain, why are they even taken? If no one is benefiting, there really seems to be no point. Seems to be a huge disservice to yourselves and the students.


To clarify, I clerked for a feeder-type judge on one of the busiest COAs. My judge hired externs primarily as a favor to professor/dean friends pushing the externs on us. The externs interacted with each other primarily, but the clerks had lunch with them every day. We tried giving the externs substantive work, like memos on discrete questions. Some externs did great work--enough to work their way up to an entire bench memo by summer's end. The ones who didn't were the ones who got the more menial assignments, such as putting together bench books.

The problem is that we were so busy with our own work that it was difficult to spend the time required to be good mentors. Not every COA is that way, of course, but when you are slammed, it's hard to sit down with them and go through pages and pages of sloppy Bluebooking and poorly reasoned analysis. I agree that the externships were largely a waste of time for everyone involved, in terms of being a learning experience, but at least the externs got to see the inner workings of chambers and have a very nice line on their resume. The judge also went to bat for former externs when they were applying for clerkships.

Every chambers is different, so the OP may have a completely different and much more pleasant experience. But it's good to know the dark side, so that expectations aren't unrealistic.

Thanks for this. I will be at a COA in the fall so this was very helpful. Do you happen to have any tips or know any resources to write a good enough memo for chambers? What are some of the most common errors that you found in extern memos?

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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 18, 2012 3:55 pm

Tips for good memo writing: be objective. So many externs' memos read like advocacy pieces based on what side they thought the judge would prefer. They would minimize or ignore cases going the other way. This is completely wrong. Go with the law every time, not what you think is right, or what you think the judge thinks is right.

Be concise. Don't try to impress people with flowery turns of phrases. Include only relevant detail. No need to show off how much homework you've done.

Know the standard of review (de novo, abuse of discretion, substantial evidence, etc.) and what it means.

Don't rely solely on the cases cited in the briefs. Often, briefs are pretty worthless and you'll have to do your own research. Also, briefs are stale by the time you get them and attorneys are sometimes too busy/lazy to Shepherdize their cases and update the court with intervening changes in the law (via something called 28(j) letters).

Read a sample bench memo before you do anything. Your judge may be very particular about some stuff that isn't even on your radar (like counsel listings).

Bluebook everything to perfection and proofread carefully before letting anyone read your work.

If a clerk offers input, don't just ignore it. It irritated me to no end when I corrected extern work, and the extern didn't incorporate the changes.

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ilovesf
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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby ilovesf » Fri May 18, 2012 4:17 pm

here for the tips

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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby jimmythecatdied6 » Fri May 18, 2012 7:55 pm

MT - helpful stuff

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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 18, 2012 7:59 pm

OP here.

Thank you so much. This is great.

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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby sundance95 » Sat May 19, 2012 3:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Tips for good memo writing: be objective. So many externs' memos read like advocacy pieces based on what side they thought the judge would prefer. They would minimize or ignore cases going the other way. This is completely wrong. Go with the law every time, not what you think is right, or what you think the judge thinks is right.

Be concise. Don't try to impress people with flowery turns of phrases. Include only relevant detail. No need to show off how much homework you've done.

Know the standard of review (de novo, abuse of discretion, substantial evidence, etc.) and what it means.

Don't rely solely on the cases cited in the briefs. Often, briefs are pretty worthless and you'll have to do your own research. Also, briefs are stale by the time you get them and attorneys are sometimes too busy/lazy to Shepherdize their cases and update the court with intervening changes in the law (via something called 28(j) letters).

Read a sample bench memo before you do anything. Your judge may be very particular about some stuff that isn't even on your radar (like counsel listings).

Bluebook everything to perfection and proofread carefully before letting anyone read your work.

If a clerk offers input, don't just ignore it. It irritated me to no end when I corrected extern work, and the extern didn't incorporate the changes.

tyft, solid poast

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mr_toad
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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby mr_toad » Sat May 19, 2012 6:56 pm

Thank you so much to the posters.

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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Sat May 19, 2012 9:00 pm

Another tip for substantive memo writing - figure out where the Court wants to go, take the loser's brief, and smack down all arguments and precedent cited therein. This was a tip i recieved from a clerk while interning at the fed COA, and if you read judicial opinions along with the parties' briefs, you'll realize just how helpful (and accurate) that advise actually is.

P.s. - damn iPads are terrible for typing on the Internet....it makes my writing worse in nearly every respect

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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 26, 2013 4:30 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Tips for good memo writing: be objective. So many externs' memos read like advocacy pieces based on what side they thought the judge would prefer. They would minimize or ignore cases going the other way. This is completely wrong. Go with the law every time, not what you think is right, or what you think the judge thinks is right.

Be concise. Don't try to impress people with flowery turns of phrases. Include only relevant detail. No need to show off how much homework you've done.

Know the standard of review (de novo, abuse of discretion, substantial evidence, etc.) and what it means.

Don't rely solely on the cases cited in the briefs. Often, briefs are pretty worthless and you'll have to do your own research. Also, briefs are stale by the time you get them and attorneys are sometimes too busy/lazy to Shepherdize their cases and update the court with intervening changes in the law (via something called 28(j) letters).

Read a sample bench memo before you do anything. Your judge may be very particular about some stuff that isn't even on your radar (like counsel listings).

Bluebook everything to perfection and proofread carefully before letting anyone read your work.

If a clerk offers input, don't just ignore it. It irritated me to no end when I corrected extern work, and the extern didn't incorporate the changes.

1L here - performed search for "standard of review" and was directed here. Shot in the dark but maybe someone can answer my question.

I'm writing a mock bench memo on a pending case for legal writing and I'm supposed to say what the standard of review is. The case we're using is a review of an agency decision that is currently in the Washington State Supreme Court. How do I determine the SOR? I know that Washington Supreme Court reviews agency decisions de novo, so I will say that, but can it also be substantial evidence? Also, I'm a little dicey on what SOR actually means...I'm pretty sure I know de novo (that the court would review agency decisions of law as if it were the first time), but what exactly does it mean to say that the standard is substantial evidence? Thanks for the help!!!

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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby MinEMorris » Sat Jan 26, 2013 4:36 pm

ak362 wrote:Depends what kind of court you're working at. I speak from the state supreme court internship perspective (soon to clerk for a federal COA), but here goes:

1) Familiarize yourself with your court's style/citation guides. Courts sometimes deviate from the Bluebook. (Gasp, I know). For instance, the DCCA requires a parallel citation for all D.C. Circuit opinion citations.

2) Ask for a sample memo from one of the clerks to see what the chambers-approved writing style is like. For producing internal memoranda, some judges don't particularly care, others want you to follow a particular format. In the latter case, follow, follow, and follow.

3) Learn how to edit quickly and efficiently. (I realize the irony of my saying this as this post is riddled with redundancies and errors, but . . . it's a TLS post.) You'll need this skill for LR or journal anyway, but whenever I turn in work product I always read through it two to three times over. I red-line the hell out of my own work. Your writing will never be perfect, but your job is to get it as close to perfect as can be within the time constraints you're working with.

4) Make friends with your court librarian.

5) Some chambers ask interns for their opinions on particular cases heard -- our judge would sit down after oral arguments and conference about particular cases and ask for your thoughts. If this happens to you, don't be afraid to voice your thoughts, but be prepared to substantively defend yourself (in other words, don't make a point if you haven't done the research to back it up). And always, always, always maintain the utmost respect for the judge you work for and his/her law clerks, as well as your fellow interns.

6) Be honest with your judge/the law clerk that you work with. If you're having problems, don't sit on them hoping for quiet resolution or dig yourself into a massive hole by trying to fix them yourself. If you've made a mistake, tell your judge/law clerk -- and as soon as possible. Live up to the duty of candor -- as a judge alum of ours likes to say, no legal mistake is irreversible except for death penalty cases (not entirely true, but . . . ) -- and as an intern you won't be assigned DP cases anyway.

7) In opinion writing, don't sacrifice the substance of the opinion for the sake of spending time trying to match your judge's "voice" -- the judge will make his/her corrections regardless of what you do. Some people try to spend too much time adding just the right amount of rhetorical flourish when it is completely unnecessary.

8 ) Learn how to research. I can't emphasize this enough. You can't imagine how much time you'll waste on Westlaw/Lexis running boolean searches until the cows come home when you could simply pop over to the library, pull a book off the shelf, see what the case law is in your jx/federal practice, and THEN proceed to do a more precise Westlaw/Lexis search using Keynumbers/Headnotes and the like. Hornbooks, treatises, jurisdictional encyclopedias -- they are all your friends. So is that Westlaw chat rep, in case you get desperate.


I'm not a 1L or doing a Judicial Internship/Clerkship, but I still thought this post was awesome. Great contribution!

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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Jan 26, 2013 6:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Tips for good memo writing: be objective. So many externs' memos read like advocacy pieces based on what side they thought the judge would prefer. They would minimize or ignore cases going the other way. This is completely wrong. Go with the law every time, not what you think is right, or what you think the judge thinks is right.

Be concise. Don't try to impress people with flowery turns of phrases. Include only relevant detail. No need to show off how much homework you've done.

Know the standard of review (de novo, abuse of discretion, substantial evidence, etc.) and what it means.

Don't rely solely on the cases cited in the briefs. Often, briefs are pretty worthless and you'll have to do your own research. Also, briefs are stale by the time you get them and attorneys are sometimes too busy/lazy to Shepherdize their cases and update the court with intervening changes in the law (via something called 28(j) letters).

Read a sample bench memo before you do anything. Your judge may be very particular about some stuff that isn't even on your radar (like counsel listings).

Bluebook everything to perfection and proofread carefully before letting anyone read your work.

If a clerk offers input, don't just ignore it. It irritated me to no end when I corrected extern work, and the extern didn't incorporate the changes.

1L here - performed search for "standard of review" and was directed here. Shot in the dark but maybe someone can answer my question.

I'm writing a mock bench memo on a pending case for legal writing and I'm supposed to say what the standard of review is. The case we're using is a review of an agency decision that is currently in the Washington State Supreme Court. How do I determine the SOR? I know that Washington Supreme Court reviews agency decisions de novo, so I will say that, but can it also be substantial evidence? Also, I'm a little dicey on what SOR actually means...I'm pretty sure I know de novo (that the court would review agency decisions of law as if it were the first time), but what exactly does it mean to say that the standard is substantial evidence? Thanks for the help!!!

There can only be one standard of review for a given issue (though multiple in a given case), so it will be de novo. For one thing, legal writing memos are almost always reviewing things de novo, because then you're just doing legal analysis and don't have to worry about the facts/records/evidence. A substantial evidence standard means the court will reverse if the holdings below aren't supported by substantial evidence, and usually legal writing assignments don't give you the kind of factual record necessary to undertake that review. (Unless your school is really different from mine, which is of course possible.)

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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:06 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Tips for good memo writing: be objective. So many externs' memos read like advocacy pieces based on what side they thought the judge would prefer. They would minimize or ignore cases going the other way. This is completely wrong. Go with the law every time, not what you think is right, or what you think the judge thinks is right.

Be concise. Don't try to impress people with flowery turns of phrases. Include only relevant detail. No need to show off how much homework you've done.

Know the standard of review (de novo, abuse of discretion, substantial evidence, etc.) and what it means.

Don't rely solely on the cases cited in the briefs. Often, briefs are pretty worthless and you'll have to do your own research. Also, briefs are stale by the time you get them and attorneys are sometimes too busy/lazy to Shepherdize their cases and update the court with intervening changes in the law (via something called 28(j) letters).

Read a sample bench memo before you do anything. Your judge may be very particular about some stuff that isn't even on your radar (like counsel listings).

Bluebook everything to perfection and proofread carefully before letting anyone read your work.

If a clerk offers input, don't just ignore it. It irritated me to no end when I corrected extern work, and the extern didn't incorporate the changes.

1L here - performed search for "standard of review" and was directed here. Shot in the dark but maybe someone can answer my question.

I'm writing a mock bench memo on a pending case for legal writing and I'm supposed to say what the standard of review is. The case we're using is a review of an agency decision that is currently in the Washington State Supreme Court. How do I determine the SOR? I know that Washington Supreme Court reviews agency decisions de novo, so I will say that, but can it also be substantial evidence? Also, I'm a little dicey on what SOR actually means...I'm pretty sure I know de novo (that the court would review agency decisions of law as if it were the first time), but what exactly does it mean to say that the standard is substantial evidence? Thanks for the help!!!

There can only be one standard of review for a given issue (though multiple in a given case), so it will be de novo. For one thing, legal writing memos are almost always reviewing things de novo, because then you're just doing legal analysis and don't have to worry about the facts/records/evidence. A substantial evidence standard means the court will reverse if the holdings below aren't supported by substantial evidence, and usually legal writing assignments don't give you the kind of factual record necessary to undertake that review. (Unless your school is really different from mine, which is of course possible.)

I think that is a really great explanation. Thank you. So just to clarify the substantial evidence standard, let me offer an example:

Let's say I brought a claim against a defendant and I won in trial but lost in appellate...and one of my arguments is that there was not enough evidence to substantiate the finding of the appellate court. If the supreme court has the authority to review factual findings for substantial evidence, then it would apply the substantial evidence standard to my argument...is this correct? Also, are there any courts of last resort that do not review factual findings for substantial evidence? Thanks so much.

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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I think that is a really great explanation. Thank you. So just to clarify the substantial evidence standard, let me offer an example:

Let's say I brought a claim against a defendant and I won in trial but lost in appellate...and one of my arguments is that there was not enough evidence to substantiate the finding of the appellate court. If the supreme court has the authority to review factual findings for substantial evidence, then it would apply the substantial evidence standard to my argument...is this correct? Also, are there any courts of last resort that do not review factual findings for substantial evidence? Thanks so much.

Well, you wouldn't really argue that there's not enough evidence to substantiate the findings of the appellate court, because an appellate court doesn't make findings. Findings are findings of fact, and only trial courts make findings of fact. Appellate courts issue rulings of law, one of which might be that a trial court's findings of fact are/aren't supported by substantial evidence. If you appeal that ruling to a supreme court, what you're saying is that as a matter of law, the appeals court got it wrong. If the supreme court hears the case, it's generally reviewing that legal conclusion, not the facts per se. So the supreme court would review de novo the appellate court's legal conclusion that the agency's decision was supported by substantial evidence. That review might require the supreme court itself to determine whether the decision was supported by substantial evidence; sometimes the supreme court can go look at facts. But generally the starting point is reviewing the appeals court's legal conclusion.

The other thing that's slightly confusing is that standards of review for agency decisions can be different from the SORs for trial/court judgments (for instance, a common SOR of an agency decision is the "arbitrary and capricious" review, which you don't apply to trial court judgments). So an appeals court generally reviews trial convictions/judgments de novo, for abuse of discretion (i.e. the trial court has discretion to make certain decisions, but will be reversed if manifestly arbitrary or unfair, or based in an erroneous understanding of the law), or under the clearly erroneous standard (i.e. for whatever reason the trial court just plain got the facts wrong). Again, the supreme court then reviews de novo the appeals court's legal conclusion.

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Re: 1L Judicial Internship: How do I make a good impression?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 27, 2013 10:12 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I think that is a really great explanation. Thank you. So just to clarify the substantial evidence standard, let me offer an example:

Let's say I brought a claim against a defendant and I won in trial but lost in appellate...and one of my arguments is that there was not enough evidence to substantiate the finding of the appellate court. If the supreme court has the authority to review factual findings for substantial evidence, then it would apply the substantial evidence standard to my argument...is this correct? Also, are there any courts of last resort that do not review factual findings for substantial evidence? Thanks so much.

Well, you wouldn't really argue that there's not enough evidence to substantiate the findings of the appellate court, because an appellate court doesn't make findings. Findings are findings of fact, and only trial courts make findings of fact. Appellate courts issue rulings of law, one of which might be that a trial court's findings of fact are/aren't supported by substantial evidence. If you appeal that ruling to a supreme court, what you're saying is that as a matter of law, the appeals court got it wrong. If the supreme court hears the case, it's generally reviewing that legal conclusion, not the facts per se. So the supreme court would review de novo the appellate court's legal conclusion that the agency's decision was supported by substantial evidence. That review might require the supreme court itself to determine whether the decision was supported by substantial evidence; sometimes the supreme court can go look at facts. But generally the starting point is reviewing the appeals court's legal conclusion.

The other thing that's slightly confusing is that standards of review for agency decisions can be different from the SORs for trial/court judgments (for instance, a common SOR of an agency decision is the "arbitrary and capricious" review, which you don't apply to trial court judgments). So an appeals court generally reviews trial convictions/judgments de novo, for abuse of discretion (i.e. the trial court has discretion to make certain decisions, but will be reversed if manifestly arbitrary or unfair, or based in an erroneous understanding of the law), or under the clearly erroneous standard (i.e. for whatever reason the trial court just plain got the facts wrong). Again, the supreme court then reviews de novo the appeals court's legal conclusion.

So when a supreme court reviews de novo the appellate court's legal conclusion, this means that they are looking at the case from the perspective of a judge who had heard it for the first time. I.e. they will give no deference to an appellate conclusions of law or to the trial court's conclusions of law. I don't know if I'm mentally challenged, but it seems like this equates to the supreme court "pretending" they are the trial court as far as legal conclusions are concerned. Am I correct? If so, then what would be an example of a court of last resort (or some other reviewing court) not hearing a conclusion of law de novo?




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