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Visual Aids at Appellate Oral Argument

Yesterday, I spoke at a State Bar of Texas Appellate Section CLE. One of the other speakers, Dallas Court of Appeals Justice Elizabeth Lang-Miers, addressed the use of visual aids at appellate oral argument. Justice Lang-Miers indicated that some attorneys seek to submit charts, diagrams, graphs, time lines, or other visual aids to the court at oral argument. She stated that this practice is not effective appellate advocacy. Specifically, she said that, if an appellate justice is studying your visual aid, the justice cannot devote his/her undivided attention to the arguments you are making.

Instead of submitting visual aids to the court at oral argument, Justice Lang-Miers recommends including them as part of your appellate brief. Then, the justices can familiarize themselves with your visual aid at the same time that they read your brief. Justice Lang-Miers recommends that, if you don’t realize that a visual aid would be helpful until long after you have filed your brief, you should consider filing copies of the visual aid with the court at least a few days before oral argument. That way, the justices won’t be seeing your visual aid for the first time at oral argument . . . and will be able to focus on your appellate argument rather than on your visual aid.