5th Amendment, Divorce, Fairfield County, Von Kohorn, Von Kohorn Attorney

Excellent YouTube Video re: 5th Amendment

This is a link to an excellent lecture about the 5th Amendment. It had been around since 2008 but is gaining new viral like attention on the Internet recently.

Divorce attorneys are not criminal lawyers. However, we are often the only lawyer that people really know well enough to have their cell phone number in the event of an emergency. This video more or less sets out what is the “gold standard” of advice around speaking with the police.

 

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Divorce, Divorce Appeals in Connecticut, Fairfield County, Litigation, Von Kohorn, Von Kohorn Attorney

Divorce Appeals – Just When You Thought You Were Done…

The good news: You got your divorce.

The bad news: They filed an appeal.

As a divorce lawyer, I spend most of my time in the Superior Court, which is the trial level court for the State of Connecticut.  Our Appellate Courts are available to divorce litigants if a party feels that a trial judge either misapplied the law or just clearly misunderstood the facts.

Decades ago, it was common for the divorce lawyer who handled the trial to also handle any appeal that came up.  It made a certain amount of sense because the trial lawyer had an intimate knowledge of how the case was handled at trial and a party would not have to pay another attorney to try to re-learn the whole case.  However, and similar to what is happening with many professions these days, both legal and non-legal, there has been a steady march to sub-specialization.  There are now lawyers who do nothing but appellate work.  Within that sub-set, there are also now lawyers who do nothing but family or divorce appellate work.

When clients or prospective clients have appellate issues, I usually refer them to attorneys who generally limit their practice to appellate law.  However, and as with most things, there are exceptions.  I remain willing to take on appellate cases if my background is well suited to handling the issue.  It can be a little nerve wracking to get out of your comfort zone of arguing to trial Judges and instead face a panel of Appellate Justices.  (I also suspect that even the most seasoned appellate lawyer experiences some degree of jitters before oral argument too.)  I am sure, however, that the exercise also makes you a better trial lawyer.

Understanding how our Justices will think about and approach appellate controversies in divorce cases helps to inform an approach at the trial level.  While I have no interest in becoming an appellate lawyer, I do appreciate any opportunity to refine my trial advocacy skills.  While most divorce lawyers like to pretend that they “know everything” – they don’t.  The practice, when done right, involves a never ending willingness to learn and refine your skills.  Adapting to new Judges and Justices is a constant responsibility as well.

Recently, my firm successfully defended an appeal that has been reported as Discover Bank v. Kevin P. Hill, Conn. App. No. 34966 (2014).  The case was a procedural mess and involved an underlying divorce case.  A copy of the decision is available from the State of Connecticut, Judicial Branch Website at: http://www.jud.ct.gov/external/supapp/Cases/AROap/AP150/150AP292.pdf

Another unique aspect of appellate practice that I enjoy, and as evidenced on the first page of the decision, is that my wife and law partner, Tara L. Von Kohorn, and I are able to collaborate on the brief writing.  That is a rare professional treat for us and it is certainly a kick to see our names together on an appellate decision.


* Note: This blog is not legal advice.  Certain terms like “specialty” used in this blog have ethical implications.  For example, there is no such thing as a divorce specialist in Connecticut and anyone who holds themselves out as one may be breaching an ethical rule and could get in trouble with the state bar or licensing committee.  This blog is not written in legal prose and is no substitute for legal advice.

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Divorce, Fairfield County, Litigation, Von Kohorn, Von Kohorn Attorney

Second Post – Good Advice Is Usually Right

As a young lawyer, I remember a conversation with a trusted colleague who has since retired.  They had practiced divorce law for about as long as I had been alive at that point.  The advice was more or less as follows:

Some divorce lawyers argue about the law in court.  What a mistake.  If you are arguing about the law then you are really just telling everyone that you either don’t know what you are doing or have no case at all and are being unreasonable.  Just focus on the facts.

Now I certainly don’t think this advice applies all the time.  It was an exaggeration to make an important and worthwhile point.  This is also a spin on the old adage that attorneys should argue the facts when the law is against them – and argue the law when the facts are against them.  By never arguing the law, I suppose you could try to at least act as if the facts were always in your favor.

However, I often think back to this advice whenever I see a young (or sometimes just plain ineffective) lawyer at court muddling through their case.  Most of our trial judges know the law very well and don’t need to be reminded of the specifics in every case.  The demand for trial time always exceeds the available supply.  During the precious time you have to make your case and convince a judge of your position, the overwhelming focus should be on the facts.  It is amazing – amazing! – how many lawyers don’t understand this and undermine their own cases.

To give you some idea of what it is like to watch a mess like this unfold in court while waiting for your own case to be called, it would be easier to give a “traffic court” sort of example.  Imagine a trial over a ticket for running a red light.  Instead of just calling their witnesses to the stand and asking them if the light was red, yellow or green (facts) or if they came to a stop or drove through the intersection (more facts) – the lawyer instead just spends 20 minutes lecturing the court about the law.  What the law says you do at an intersection if the light is green, yellow or red.  While this is a simple example, there are often genuinely simple controversies in family court that play out this way every day.

-Jon Von Kohorn

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