WICHITA, Kan. – The Champion, a monthly publication of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers – features in its latest issue an article on appellate advocacy co-authored by Dan Monnat, of Wichita’s Monnat & Spurrier, Chartered, and Paige A. Nichols, an assistant federal public defender in Lawrence, Kan. The article, “From Cover to Content: Ten 21st Century Tips for Effective Appellate Briefing,” is a fresh look at the most effective way to write and present appellate briefs. A copy of the article can be downloaded here.
“Appellate briefs are about more than sound legal arguments, they are about sound writing, visually attractive presentation, and paying microscopic attention to every detail of the Court’s rules,” says Monnat, who has been a criminal-defense and appellate-defense lawyer for more than 40 years. “We’ve all heard the adage, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’ But justices are human and the reality is that a visually attractive and well-packaged document is going to get a better, more thorough read than one that is presented in bad format, font or design.
“The way a brief looks has a subliminal effect on the person reading it, and it is a critically important effect,” says Monnat, who has argued more than 100 appellate cases over the years.
“And remember,” says Monnat, “it’s a brave new world. We practice law now in a world of digital readers and hard-copy readers. We need to accommodate both and take thoughtful advantage of such 21st century enhancements as graphics, images, and embedded sound and video clips.”
Monnat is a past president of the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and a former board member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is also a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, and the American Board of Criminal Lawyers.
Nichols, a former staff attorney with Monnat & Spurrier, was associated with the firm for more than 20 years, working with its successful appellate and motion practice. Nichols, who helped found the Midwest Innocence Project, religiously reads every brief in every Tenth Circuit criminal appeal. She contributes to the Federal Public Defender’s blog and is the former host of Monnat & Spurrier’s Just In Case podcast, an analysis of criminal law cases just-in from the Kansas Appellate Courts, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court. Episodes of the podcast are posted at www.Monnat.com/podcast
Monnat and Nichols have co-authored numerous articles that have appeared in state and national legal journals for more than two decades.
Nichols received her J.D. in 1993 from Northeastern University in Boston and an LL.M. in criminal law in 2002 from the University of Missouri–Kansas City. She lectures frequently and has written extensively about legal writing, ethics, appellate practice, and criminal law.
Dan Monnat and legal scholar Stan Spurrier founded Monnat & Spurrier in 1985. The firm has six attorneys and has earned an international reputation for its defense of high-profile clients accused of white-collar and violent crimes.