Importance of Candor to the Court

Dallas Court of Appeals Justices Ada Brown, Molly Francis, and Bill Whitehill spoke at a Dallas Association of Young Lawyers seminar in the Merrill Hartman Courtroom of the George Allen Courthouse. The justices geared their presentation toward young lawyers with little or no appellate experience and, as such, the tips offered would be well-known to regular readers of this blog.

However, Justice Brown’s comments about candor to the court were so memorable that they bear sharing here. Specifically, Justice Brown spoke about the pitfalls of an attorney neglecting to address facts and law that hurt the attorney’s position. Justice Brown stated simply: “The kitty litter approach never works.” She explained that cats cover up their poop with kitty litter, and some lawyers might be inclined to similarly hide anything that they’d rather the court not consider. Justice Brown advised against this approach, admonishing “Don’t cover up the poop. Show me the poo poo in your brief.” She indicated that, if an attorney points out something that might hurt his case, he has an opportunity to immediately explain why the information isn’t nearly as bad as it might seem. On the other hand, if the attorney simply ignores the adverse fact or adverse law, “the other side will uncover the poo poo.” And this will cost the “kitty litter lawyer” credibility with the court.

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