When Briefing Appellate Issues, Less Is More

An attorney pursuing an appeal may be tempted to raise any and all arguments - however flimsy - before the appellate court, in an attempt to see what sticks. The Third Appellate District, however, urges attorneys to resist that temptation.

In Leino v. Balkcom, Appellate Case No. C080950, a client and his attorney raised seventeen (!) arguments on appeal in an attempt to wiggle their way out of $16,060 in sanctions awarded against them. The court's opinion fairly drips with irritation; it dispenses with eleven of the issues raised in one paragraph, noting that they were not timely raised. As to the other six issues, the court's brevity in dismissing them is telling. "We are not persuaded." (p. 15.) "We reject the argument." (p. 17.) "We conclude the record does not support the factual assertion upon which their claim depends." (p. 11.) It seems fair to say the Third District did not relish the idea of entertaining 17 separate arguments on appeal, and drafted its opinion accordingly.

Ultimately, an attorney would be wise to limit the issues raised on appeal; the more arguments raised, the less likely each is to be successful. And, should the imprudent attorney raise 17 such unsuccessful arguments, it may face not only an affirmation of the trial court's order, but also "[a] copy of [the] opinion...forwarded to the State Bar of California..." ( Leino, p.