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5 Tips: How to Avoid Getting Benchslapped in the 7th Cir.

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD | Last updated on

We've been writing a bit about the "Benchslappy" Seventh Circuit -- we can't help ourselves. The Seventh Circuit's benchslaps are funny, and often illuminating -- so much so we had to do a review of some that have occurred only within the past three months.

After reviewing some of the more notable Seventh Circuit benchslaps through the years, we've decided to put a list together for you on how to avoid getting whapped the next time you submit a brief, or argue, before the Seventh Circuit.

Be Prepared

In a recent case, attorney Michael Finn was suspended because he did not show up for his client's oral argument because he felt unprepared. If you are going to argue before the Seventh Circuit (or any circuit really), you must be prepared. You need to know every statute, every relevant case and every fact inside and out. You are there to argue your case -- you have deadlines and you know what you need to review. There simply is no excuse for not preparing properly.

Don't Lie

Not only did Michael Finn no show up to oral argument because he was unprepared -- but he lied about it and said he could not attend because he was sick. If there's one thing worse than not being prepared, it's lying to cover up your ineptitude.

Dress Appropriately

Apparently there are some fashion mavens on the Seventh Circuit bench. We don't lie -- the Chicago Bar Association even held an event entitled "What Not to Wear Fashion Show." That's not all, at a 2009 Seventh Circuit Bar Association Meeting, members of the federal judiciary had a few pointers for lawyers (mostly women, imagine our surprise), and their professional attire, reports The New York Times.

Don't Act Like an Ostrich

In one particularly funny benchslap issued by Judge Posner, he even included photos to go along with his verbal benchslap: "The ostrich is a noble animal, but not a proper model for an appellate advocate. (Not that ostriches really bury their heads in the sand when threatened; don't be fooled by the picture below.)"

Don't Assume, Explain

Benchslaps aren't just for attorneys, they are for lower court judges too. The Seventh Circuit reminded a lower court judge that certain issues and findings must be discussed, before they can be decided.

It may seem like the Seventh Circuit issues lots of benchslaps, but when you look at the kind of conduct they are admonishing, it seems like they just call problems out when they see them. If you are going to submit a brief to, or argue before the Seventh Circuit, be sure to review this list to avoid the now infamous, Seventh Circuit benchslap.

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