On July 15, 2020, the Appellate Practice Section announced its winners of its third Best Briefs competition. The biennial competition looks for excellence in brief writing amongst the Wisconsin bar.
Because appellate practice centers around brief writing, the competition’s goal is to recognizes personal achievement that also aids appellate attorneys striving to improve their writing and argumentation skills.
To be chosen is no easy task. First, it takes nomination. Anyone can nominate a brief – the authors, colleagues, friends, judges, clerks, or other admirers of great legal writing – with it an honor to simply be nominated.
Second, volunteers from the Appellate Practice Section narrow the number of briefs – from nearly 50 submissions – to a field of 20. This year the narrowing was informative, somewhat educational, and certainly a tall order – the competition saw a record-number of submissions, at all levels of appellate practice in both the state and federal courts.
Once narrowed, the third and final step is review by a select panel of judges. This year’s final review was by Justice David Prosser, Judge Kitty Brennan, and Judge Paul Higginbotham. All volunteered their time in winnowing out the winners. The author-submissions are anonymous – the competition was intended to select briefs that stood out as particularly easy to read, well-argued, and persuasive.
The judge panel selected four briefs as the winning submissions, with five winning authors.
Those authors are now honored for their achievement. Joseph A. Bugni wrote U.S. v. Sahm, as presented to the Seventh Circuit, with Shelley Fite honored for her brief in a related case, United States v. Franklin, in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Ryan J. Walsh and Kevin M. LeRoy were recognized for their brief in Minerva Dairy v. Harsdorf, as presented to the Seventh Circuit. Ryan Walsh was again honored along with Sopen B. Shah for writing in Porter v. State as presented to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
All four submissions represent excellent briefs for the reader, the court, the practitioner and the profession.
Looking to judge your brief based on the winners, need some writing tips, or simply want a sample for your future writing? See the article, with links to the briefs, in the July 15, 2020, issue of InsideTrack.
You can find discussions of past award-winning briefs in the Dec. 21, 2016, and June 20, 2018, issues of InsideTrack.