We are a boutique civil litigation and transactional law firm with offices in Arizona, California, and Utah. While we do many things well, one area of practice in which we thrive is appellate work.
Attorney Stephen Biggs, who works out of our Arizona office and is the primary author of this blog, is a young but experienced appellate lawyer. He handles appeals in state and federal court, both in and outside of Arizona. Among other appellate cases he handled or assisted on in 2016, Stephen briefed and argued two cases before the Arizona Supreme Court–a court that has historically accepted and decided fewer than 40 cases each year.
Our Appellate Services
We offer several types of appellate services at Smith LC. The primary appellate service we offer is prosecuting and defending civil, criminal, probate, and family law appeals as sole or lead appellate counsel. On multiple occasions, trial attorneys or their clients have trusted Smith LC’s lawyers to handle their appeals even though we did not serve as counsel in the trial court. Because several of our attorneys are seasoned trial lawyers, we understand that trials and appeals require different lawyering skills. We are available to handle appeals for trial attorneys who want to focus on doing what they do best: trying cases.
We are also available to act as co-counsel for those trial attorneys who wish to take the lead in an appeal but desire to associate an experienced appellate attorney to help navigate the procedural particularities of the appellate system and lend a hand with issue framing, brief writing, appellate motion practice, petitions for review, oral argument preparation, and oral argument presentation.
Many appellate cases turn on whether an issue was properly preserved in the trial court. For this reason, in some cases it makes sense for a trial attorney to associate an appellate attorney before the case is even tried. We are available to serve as co-counsel in the trial court to assist trial attorneys in identifying issues that may need to be preserved for a potential appeal and then creating an adequate record to preserve those issues in the event an appeal becomes necessary later on down the road.
Some issues are not automatically eligible for immediate or direct review by an appellate court, but may–at the option of the appellate or trial court–be reviewed before there is an absolute right to an appeal if the appropriate court can be convinced of the necessity or expediency of deciding the issue sooner rather than later. These “interlocutory appeals,” usually pursued in Arizona through a process known as a “special action,” are a special species of appellate cases that benefit from the skill of an attorney experienced in this particular area of the law. Our lawyers understand how to handle special actions and other types of interlocutory appeals, and we are available to ease the burden on trial attorneys who wish to keep their focus on the proceedings in the trial court or want the assistance of someone who knows how to navigate the interlocutory appellate process.
An adverse result in an intermediate court of appeals is not always the end of the road. Sometimes an appellate case presents an issue that has not previously been decided in the state or jurisdiction where the court of appeals sits. Other times, a court of appeals renders a decision that is in conflict with a prior decision by the same court or a higher appellate court in that state or jurisdiction. And sometimes a published decision of a court of appeals creates bad law that needs to be corrected by a state supreme court or the United States Supreme Court. Our attorneys are equipped with the knowledge, skill, and experience to assist trial attorneys and clients in evaluating whether it makes sense to petition a state supreme court or the United States Supreme Court to accept discretionary review of a case. And if that evaluation results in a decision to move forward with a petition seeking review, our lawyers also possess the knowledge, skill, and experience to write a persuasive petition for review and, if review is granted, brief and argue the case before a supreme court.