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.