The Indianapolis Bar Association’s Appellate Practice Section recently created the Indiana Appellate Institute, a resource available to lawyers throughout the state who have oral arguments scheduled before the Indiana Supreme Court or Court of Appeals. Modeled after the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown Law School, the Indiana Appellate Institute offers “moot” or practice argument sessions before a panel of experienced appellate advocates, former judicial clerks, and law professors well-versed in the subject matter of the case and general appellate court procedures. The Institute’s mission is to elevate the quality of oral advocacy, especially by assisting advocates with limited oral argument experience, with the hope of assisting courts in deciding cases.
The Institute’s first moot was held on October 22 in the Wynne Courtroom of the Indiana University School of Law—Indianapolis. A distinguished panel of section members took on the role of justices in posing questions to Jim Rossow of Rubin & Levin in Indianapolis as he prepared for his first oral argument before the Indiana Supreme Court. The issue in the case, Gibraltar Financial Corp. v. Prestige Equipment Corp., was whether a lease was a true lease or a disguised security agreement. As Mr. Rossow stood at the podium and delivered his argument, the panel asked questions for about forty-five minutes. After the formal part of the moot, the panel members spent the next forty-five minutes offering constructive and candid advice as part of an informal dialogue with Mr. Rossow.
Mr. Rossow recommends the program to both new and experienced advocates as an effective way to receive “independent, outside advice about how best to present an oral argument.” He remarked the “panel judges helped me understand how the appellate court approaches a case on appeal. They asked tough questions.” Mr. Rossow’s argument was a success; he persuaded the Court to grant transfer. A decision on the merits will follow in the next several months.
Attorneys with cases scheduled for oral argument who are interested in scheduling a moot argument with the Indiana Appellate Institute should complete the “advocate form” on the Appellate Practice Section’s page on indybar.org. Requests should be made at least three weeks before a scheduled oral argument. Mooting sessions will generally be held one week before the argument to allow counsel adequate time to incorporate the panel’s critique. There is no charge for the service at this time. Finally, although the Institute currently has about 45 volunteer judges, the Section welcomes additional volunteer judges. Please complete the “volunteer judge” form available on the Section’s website. Any questions about the Institute may be directed to Joel Schumm at (317) 278-4733 or firstname.lastname@example.org.•