ON APPEAL by Frank M. Coffin


Courts, Lawyering, and Judging
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Federal appellate judge Coffin (The Ways of a Judge, 1980, etc.) takes the reader on an erudite, informative and witty tour of American appellate courts, those courts that review the legal decisions of trial courts and give litigants a second chance at justice.

Coffin is judge on the United States Court of Appeals, which makes most authoritative decisions on federal legal issues (the U.S. Supreme Court, the only high court in the federal system, hears only a relative handful of cases each year). He does not limit his treatment to this important court, however, but examines the appellate process in both the federal and state systems. After presenting the historical background and present characteristics of the often sharply contrasting English common law and European civil law models, Coffin lays out at length the distinctive elements of American appellate practice. He contrasts the federal and state appellate systems, pointing out both the dominance of state appellate courts (they make 85 to 90 percent of all appellate decisions in this country, he concludes) and the problems that dog them (underfunding, for instance). Insightfully and often humorously, the author treats virtually every other aspect of appellate advocacy and judgeship: the judge's "chambers family,'' including relationships with clerks; the development of an adequate record for appeal; the submission and reading of briefs; the preparation and presentation of oral arguments; the judges' conference, at which the merits of the case are discussed; and the drafting of opinions by the judges. Coffin offers his own thinking on judging appeals and offers suggestions, such as instituting alternative forums for dispute resolution that are aimed at preserving the central role of the appellate court in our rapidly changing society and legal culture.

A valuable guide, by an insider, into our nation's most important legal institutions.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1994
ISBN: 0-393-03582-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1993


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