Law school presents Distinguished Brief Awards at ceremony

By Cynthia Price
Legal News

For the 32nd year, Western Michigan University Cooley Law School chose what a panel of judges deems to be the best briefs submitted before the Michigan Supreme Court (MSC). The winning briefs included:

• Case Name: Kevin S. Reffitt v. Dawn M. Bachi-Reffitt.. Law Firm: Bursch Law PLLC.. Attorney: John J. Bursch.

• Case Name: Kevin S. Reffitt v. Dawn M. Bachi-Reffitt. Law Firm: Warner Norcross & Judd LLP. Attorney: Conor B. Dugan.

• Case Name: Freemont Insurance Company v. Gro-Green Farms Inc. Law Firm: Bursch Law PLLC. Attorney: John J. Bursch.

• Case Name: Freemont Insurance Company v. Gro-Green Farms Inc. Law Firm: Warner Norcross & Judd LLP. Attorney: Matthew T. Nelson.

• Case Name: Freemont Insurance Company v. Gro-Green Farms Inc. Law Firm: Stertz & Weaver PC. Attorney: H. William Stertz.

• Case Name: Freemont Insurance Company v. Gro-Green Farms Inc. Law Firm: Stertz & Weaver PC. Attorney: Michael E. Korn.

WMU-Cooley Law Professor Mark Cooney, who won the award when he was in private practice, organized the event with Law Review Symposium editors Errin Kane and Alysha Warren and other students.

Cooney introduced keynote speaker, Tim Baughman, a special assistant prosecuting attorney with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, who made seven appearances before the U.S. Supreme Court and more than 75 in the MSC over his 42-year career. He also served as the reporter for the MSC Committee to Revise the Rules of Criminal Procedure, and is on the Model Criminal Jury Instructions Committee.

Baughman is an expert on the Michigan Supreme Court’s workings. He noted that when he started practicing, the Michigan body did not have a regular term, so it could be years after briefing and argument that they would hand down a decision. He also told the audience about the increased use, and occasional frustrations, of Mini Oral Arguments.

But his main focus was on briefs, and how to write a good one. “Remember when you’re writing for leave to appeal, it isn’t to win – it’s to get the court’s attention so they’ll hear your case,” Baughman said.

Baughman noted the most important element is likely the issues framing statement. He advised it is no longer deemed necessary to confine that to one sentence, but that any writing should be direct and clear, and as simple as possible.

The judges panel comprised Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina,  Michigan Court of Appeals Judges Kathleen Jansen and Michael Riordan, Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul Denenfeld, Prof. Bradley Charles, Prof. David Finnegan, and Prof. David Tarrien. The panel uses seven criteria – question presented, point headings, statement of case, argument and analysis, style, mechanics and best overall brief.

 

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