Earlier this month, the Will County Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division welcomed Third District Appellate Court Justice Mary K. O’Brien as a guest lecturer. Justice O’Brien graduated from law school at the University of Illinois and was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives prior to her appointment to the Appellate Court in 2003. Currently, there are seven Third District Appellate Court Justices (including Justice O’Brien) who hear cases in Ottawa. The Criminal and Civil caseload out of the Third District between 2012 and 2016 has ranged between 750-950 cases per year.
Justice O’Brien discussed a variety of topics aimed to aid and inform the young attorneys how to present an effective oral argument before the Third District. Typically, the Third District will hear oral arguments at any time except during the months of July, August, and September. The format of an oral argument begins with the appellant, or party appealing the decision of the lower trial court, with 15 minutes for argument. The appellee, or the party resisting the appeal, has 15 minutes to respond to the appellant and the appellant will have another 5 minutes for rebuttal. During oral arguments Justices may ask the attorneys questions. Justice O’Brien emphasized the importance of answering the questions because they often go to the heart of a party’s case. With such short time allotted for oral argument, Justice O’Brien suggested that a clear and concise argument is often most effective and that it is acceptable to finish an oral argument before the allotted time runs out.
Justice O’Brien also touched on topics to help the young attorneys prepare briefs before the Third District. Before oral arguments parties have the opportunity to submit briefs to the Third District in support of their claims. Justice O’Brien emphasized the importance of properly citing legal authority and making evidence or documents a party relies on easily accessible to the Justices in the appendix.
Finally, Justice O’Brien addressed some of the technical changes that Illinois Courts are experiencing since the new electronic filing in Illinois and she also fielded questions from the young lawyers. After the speaking engagement, Michael Santschi commented, “as a young lawyer, I find it deeply encouraging to see Appellate Court Justices taking an interest in the young lawyers in their district. Justice O’Brien has been and continues to be an excellent source of advice and counsel for me and other young lawyers I know. I am profoundly grateful to her for taking time out of her busy schedule to come and speak to us, and I hope that she will do so again in the future.”
The Will County Bar Association’s Young Lawyers are comprised of attorneys who have been licensed less than 7 years and practice in Will County. Please contact Jake Gancarczyk at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tyler Moore at email@example.com if you are an attorney in Will County who is interested in participating in any future events.