Is the Texas Appellate Law Podcast relocating? Not exactly. But in this crossover episode with The California Appellate Law Podcast, Todd Smith and Jody Sanders chat with their California counterparts, Tim Kowal and Jeff Lewis. Together, they share their experiences launching a podcast in the middle of the pandemic, their favorite (legal) war stories, and how the justice systems of their respective states responded to COVID-19 restrictions. They also discuss similarities and differences between the respective states’ appellate systems.
Jody, I don’t know about you, but I’m really getting tired of all these Californians moving into Texas. I think we ought to go and start an appellate law podcast in California and take over there. What do you think?
I get it. I feel like we probably said everything we need to say about Texas appellate practice anyway.
Everyone who is someone has already been on our podcast when it comes to Texas. California is this whole fertile ground we have yet to plow. Readers, beware. We are moving to California.
Isn’t somebody already doing an appellate podcast in California?
I’m going to have to check because that is not on my radar screen. Even if they do, don’t you think we could do it better?
We’ll check it out. Readers, we’ll let you know. Thanks. Tim and Jeff, welcome to the California Appellate Law Podcast.
Wait, Todd, I think you mean the Texas Appellate Law Podcast. We are the California Appellate Law Podcast.
Yes, that’s us. Todd and Jody, let us welcome you to the Texas Appellate Law Podcast.
What’s going on here?
I was telling Jeff that we’ve had such success in the California market and I’m opening up a satellite office in Texas that I thought we’d expand. I didn’t know if you were doing much in the podcast market these days. How are things going with the podcast? Are you amenable to a takeover?
Don’t California my Texas Appellate Law Podcast.
Every podcast could use a little granola, a little yoga, and a little Left Coast influence.
Not so much meat in the diet.
This is starting to sound like a bad SNL skit.
Do we have to take the April Fools’ bloom off the rose here?
I guess so.
April Fools’ to everybody out there. We’re still on our respective podcasts, but we do have a crossover episode headed your way.
It’s been a fantastic opportunity to get Jody and Todd here to interview them. I’ve been a fan of theirs since they started the podcast. There would be no California Appellate Law Podcast without the efforts of these gentlemen. They are fantastic lawyers and pioneers in the legal podcasting space.
You two created a great set of examples for us to steal from. We appreciate you very much.
I wish I could say that we were that original. When we first conceived of appellate law podcasting, I took what I had learned from other legal podcasts and tried to apply it. I won’t identify who I stole shamelessly from, but go out in there in the public sphere.
For our Californians who may not be familiar with you, do you each want to give a quick short bio or introduction of who you are and what you do?
I’ll go first. I’m Jody Sanders. I am an appellate lawyer at Kelly Hart & Hallman in Fort Worth, Texas. I’ve been at the firm for many years now and primarily doing appellate work for most of that time.
I’m Todd Smith. I practice at Butler Snow, which is a Southern regional firm of about 400 lawyers or so. We have about fifteen of us here in Austin. We have a Dallas office as well that’s a little smaller. I’ve been doing appellate work my whole career. After law school, I clerked for a Texas Supreme Court Justice for two years. I went into a large firm for most of a decade. Before coming back to a large firm, I had my own law firm for about fifteen years. That’s where Jeff and I first were exposed to each other, in the solo small firm appellate world.
For the Texas audience, my name’s Jeff Lewis. I come from a teeny law firm known as Jeff Lewis Law in Southern California. I do appeals, Anti-SLAPP, and civil litigation. Most of my practice is Anti-SLAPP litigation and appeals. I’m a certified appellate specialist. I’ve been doing it for several years.
My name’s Tim Kowal. I am the appellate specialist at my small firm, Thomas Vogele & Associates. We handle a lot of business litigation matters all over money disputes. I handle the appeals. I got into doing appeals by handling the appeals in my own cases until I realized I enjoy doing this and maybe I can get some other people to hire me to do their own appeals as well.
You guys are doing great things out in California with your podcast. There’s definitely some compare and contrast between what we do and what you all do. We’ve joked a little bit about stealing ideas from each other. I think there are some things that we could steal from you all when we grow tired of our current format.
That’s the thing with podcasts. There are so many out there that you can listen to and learn from. There are always fresh ideas floating around out there. I don’t know about you guys, but our podcast is guest focused. We don’t always feature ourselves. We don’t necessarily talk a whole lot about specific cases or things that are the matters that are being adjudicated in the appellate court.
That’s a little bit of a different approach than what you guys do. When I listen to your podcast, I hear a lot of specific discussions about legal issues and sometimes on certain cases. That’s a nice contrast to what we do. When we get tired of sitting around talking to appellate judges and legal practitioners, Jody, maybe we’ll start doing mini CLEs on our podcast.
I like it.
That’s a goal. Jeff is working on that. I don’t think we’ve disclosed that on the show. We’re angling to release some CLE-approved episodes so that some of our audience can get some free CLEs sitting in traffic on the 405, making their way to the 55 to the 5 freeway.
Do lawyers in Texas have a certification process for certified specialties? Is there such a thing?
Are you a certified appellate specialist?
I am. I’ve been certified. It’s the Texas Board of Legal Specialization that handles that. There are more than a dozen.
They’ve added a few recently too.
As a specialist, I find it hard to find a specialized MCLE that’s successful. One of my goals in having a podcast and getting approval for MCLE is to offer appellate lawyers certified MCLE, at least in California. That’s the goal.
In Texas, we’ve been very lucky. We have a very active state bar appellate section, and they do a good job of doing programming that counts for the specialization for civil appellate.
Getting that CLE is not a problem here. Let me also throw out that we’ve looked into something similar for our podcast. Unfortunately, the way that the MCLE rules work in Texas, you can’t broadcast something that you’ve previously recorded and then have it be awarded credit for a CLE. That’s something that is of interest to us. I certainly would recommend it. We do have up to five hours of self-study credit available to lawyers every year. Anybody who’s read our blogs, you ought to certainly feel welcome to apply for that five hours of self-study credit. There are plenty of our episodes that would qualify for that.
Do you get any feedback or comments from your audience about things that you’re doing on your podcast that your audience especially enjoy? Do they enjoy hearing from particular kinds of guests or certain kinds of content or stories? Jeff and I are always looking for ways to generate more content that our audience is going to benefit from. I wondered what kind of comments you’ve heard from your readership.
The answer is it depends. Sometimes we have people that reach out and volunteer themselves and say, “I know a lot about this topic. Are you interested in maybe having me on?” Most of the time the answer is yes unless it’s something that has nothing to do with appellate law. Maybe once or twice we’ve said, “I don’t know if that fits.” It’s pretty much everybody else that’s ever asked to be on. In fact, we got one that Todd and I haven’t even talked about where people volunteer. A lot of times, it’s stuff that I wouldn’t have been able to find someone because I didn’t necessarily know it existed. That’s been pretty interesting. Some people say, “What about these types of guests? What about these types of topics?” We’ve tried to incorporate those when we hear from them as well.
I get a lot of unsolicited emails from people, marketers mostly, who are trying to place their clients. That generally doesn’t work. We don’t typically do that, but Jody’s exactly right. Sometimes we’ll get some that we wouldn’t have thought of. It’s like, “This looks like a legit person. Let’s have them on.” The ones that people comment on a lot are the judges. People like to hear it. It’s like our CLEs. When there’s an appellate CLE or any kind of CLE here in Texas and the judges are speaking, the crowds will come for that. What’s been a boon for our show is having a fair number of appellate judges and trial judges come on as guests.
That’s been a bit of a barrier for us. We’ve had a number of retired justices and judges come and speak, but we have never been able to get an active sitting appellate justice to come interview with us.
Are they worried about what they’re going to be asked? Why do you think that is, Jeff?
I don’t know. I know their workload. They have a tremendous workload in our Court of Appeal. I know getting them to come and speak in live MCLE presentations is very difficult. It could be a function of that, or it could be we’re not quite as famous or infamous as the Texas Appellate Law Podcast yet. We need to spend a few more years and get a few more episodes under our belt, perhaps. It could be Tim’s ranting and raving against unpublished decisions.
You guys have been doing weekly episodes. You’ve been at that pace from the time you started, if I’m not mistaken. When Jeff and I started, we did about once a month. We were not even quite at that pace at the beginning. I describe our initial half dozen episodes or so as the rudder guide in podcast form. I was terrified of saying anything incorrect on the law, so it was heavily scripted until we finally decided to have a guest on and realized that the guests do all the work on the podcast. You’ll ask them a question, and then off they go. We’ve loosened up since then. It took us until sometime in late 2022 that we finally started on a weekly routine. I think you guys have been doing weekly, or is it every other week since the beginning?
It’s now every other week. Ours turned into a little bit of a happy accident. When we first started talking about starting the podcast, Blake Hawthorne, who was the clerk of the Texas Supreme Court, said, “If you guys come down, you can record your first episodes at the court. I’ll get you a justice as a guest.” Without having spent a whole lot of time talking about our format, our first couple of episodes were guest episodes, so we stuck with that.
We recorded that the first week of March 2020, and then all of a sudden every judge and lawyer in Texas had a Zoom account and a lot of spare time on their hands. That’s how we ended up doing it weekly because we started sending out, “Want to come on our podcast and do an episode?” We ended up with a good backlog quickly, and we were able to transition into weekly episodes on that basis. When everything opened back up, we realized that every week was getting to prove to be too much both for ourselves and recruiting guests to keep up that so we switched to every other week, which is a good pace for both of us now.
Doing a week to start with was good for us to ramp things up and establish ourselves. Being somewhat established, I was looking at our episode count. We’ll be at 115 episodes with our next one. Having that library is good. We feel a little less pressured that we’ve got to produce all the time. We like the every-other-week pace. It’s manageable. It’s not hard to get guests generally. We don’t get too burned out on it. Not that it was that much work to burn us out in the first place. We always have had a lot of fun with it. It’s been a great thing for us to do.
I’ve had the same experience. It’s been a lot of fun. As I said, I was terrified at the beginning of saying something wrong, but after you learn to loosen up a little bit, then it’s great fun. Here’s one thing that our audiences have told us. We are trying to reach trial attorneys. We’re appellate attorneys. This is, in effect, a marketing effort. We’re trying to reach our target audience of trial attorneys.
I always like to say I like to jump around the corner and scare poor trial attorneys about the things that can go wrong if they don’t hire an appellate specialist like Jeff or me. True to form, I’ve had some trial attorneys tell me, “I’d love to have a top ten tips. What things do appellate attorneys want us trial attorneys to know?” I talked with Jeff. We made good on that and released a top 10 tips for trial attorneys bringing an appeal. We released an episode, Top Tips for Respondents on Appeal. You’re already statistically likely to win, but here’s how to drive it home and put the nail in the coffin. We try to give content like that where we can.
I’m writing furiously. I’m taking notes. Those are great digestible bits of information. It’s the same for us. As Jody’s pointed out, the timing of it was fortuitous. Ultimately, it is for us more than being about sitting around and pontificating, which is how we let off. We try to provide value to our target audience, and we like that appellate judges and appellate lawyers follow our show. Our goal has basically been the same. We want to provide value to trial lawyers. We try to do that. We have a little different approach than you all do, but that top ten list thing is something that we ought to consider doing.
Let’s jump into the meat of the interview here. One of the patented and copyrighted things we like to do on the California Appellate Law Podcast is to ask each of our guests to tell a favorite war story. Before we ask you, Jody and Todd, to share a war story, I’ll share a quick short one, and then we’ll ask you two to share one. I was once involved in an appeal where opposing counsel substituted in two weeks before the oral argument. He had never done an appeal before. He stepped up to the podium and said, “May I please the court? I’d like to reserve all of my speaking time for rebuttal.”
I stood up as the respondent and said, “I have nothing to say.” The justice was so close to closing the door on him and said, “I guess we’re done” but she showed a little bit of mercy and let him present an argument as usual. That, in a nutshell, is one of my favorite stories showing the differences between appellate lawyers and trial lawyers masquerading as appellate lawyers.
That’s a very dangerous gambit.
With that, Jody or Todd, do you have a favorite war story you’d like to share with our audience?
I have one I can tell. I was just reminded of this because we had a reunion of the judge I clerked for whose long since retired from the Texas Supreme Court. We had a bunch of us here in Austin get together as former law clerks. He told the story, and it reminded me of the event that I was around for at the time.
Oral argument at the Texas Supreme Court back in the mid-1990s, a young lawyer is getting up to present her argument. She’s handling herself well but clearly very nervous, and she faints. The court stops all the action and calls EMS. EMS comes out. She’s like, “No. I want to continue.” To her credit, she finished the argument despite having gone through that rather serious nervousness and the trauma of having EMS called to your first Texas Supreme Court argument. When Justice Gonzalez was telling the story, he joked, “I can’t remember how the case came out, but she was really a trooper.” Fainting in oral argument is the war story I will tell.
Did the justices give her extra time? That’s what I want to know.
I think the clock was suspended. She got every bit of time she had coming.
Jody, what about you? A tip or a war story.
I’m trying to think of ones that I haven’t told, and I can’t keep track of the ones that I’ve told on here before. I’ll riff on a similar theme to Todd’s. I was at an oral argument. I won’t say what court or anything. The appellant got up and gave our side of it. The appellee got up and started talking, and their nose started bleeding. They kept talking, and it was getting worse.
The judge said, “Do you want a break?” They said, “No, it’s fine.” They kept talking. The judge finally said, “We’re going to take a break. Go ahead and stop the timer. We’re going to take a break.” They did, came back, and everything was fine. That reminded me that judges are human too. They understand that weird and crazy things happen, and it’s okay. Don’t be a hero to the point where you have to hold your bloody nose during an oral argument. Take the break and the minute that the court’s giving you.
There’s an acceptable amount of gore for an oral argument. Don’t exceed it.
The threshold clearly had been crossed at that point.
When the judge offers you a lifeline, take it.
Tim, everyone here has done something except for you, I believe. Tell us your war story or your tip.
I’m in Jody’s boat. I’m trying to think of one that I haven’t told already. Our audience has suffered through repeat stories before. I’ll tell the one that I like the best that still grates on me now. It’s about a judgment enforcement issue. We had this great law, a California Supreme Court case in California. To set it up, as a judgment debtor, one of the things you’re worried about is post-judgment interest and attorney’s fees for enforcement costs.
One of the ways to cut off the judgment creditor’s right to attorney’s fees for enforcement costs is to pay the full amount of the judgment before they file their memo of costs. If you do that, it’s too bad and so sad for the judgment creditor because they can’t get their attorney’s fees no matter how much they’ve run up.
I did that for a client in the case. The trick is that you can’t do it with a check because the creditor can hold onto the check and refuse to cash it until they filed their memo of cost, so it has to be in cash. Maybe a wire would work, too, but the California Supreme Court case on point says, “You have to pay them in cash.” We did. We showed up with an armored truck and paid over $200,000. The attorney was livid. “Who does this?” I was like, “The Supreme California Supreme Court said this is what you do.” We did it. The trial judge still said, “I don’t like it. I’m going to give them their fees anyway.”
No fees for you.
No amount of table pounding could overturn. By that time, the client was out of fuel to do more appeals.
That sounds like a Texas story, like something that only happens in Texas where someone showed up with an armored truck with cash.
I’ve never had an armored truck involved in any of my litigation as far as I can remember. I feel like that would stick in my memory.
What kind of appellate lawyer are you, Jody?
I know. I’m disappointed now. I’ve got to find a reason to get one.
You’ve never seen a lawyer so unhappy to have somebody showing up with an armored truck full of cash.
I should have paid the extra fee to get a selfie as he was delivering it. I wanted to ask you two. We were both podcasting during the pandemic. For all of us, it started as a pandemic project, basically.
It was supposed to be a hobby, Tim. It wasn’t supposed to be a real thing. Tim never got that memo.
We were live on the scene reporting on the state of the judiciary in our respective states during the pandemic. Maybe we can briefly talk about it and compare the experiences of our respective states’ responses to the pandemic. One case that Jeff and I talked about that I thought was illuminating is the difference in responses, even in judiciaries in the same locale. We had the Ninth Circuit taking a different approach than the state superior courts in Orange County, for example.
The Orange County Superior Courts, it was probably by around 2021 that this was happening. They were holding criminal trials. In this case, the United States versus Olson. Olson demanded his right to a speedy trial. He says, “Orange County Superior Court is right across the street holding trials. I want my trial. This is a violation of the Speedy Trial Act.” The prosecutors wanted further continuances.
The district judge did not grant it. Judge Cormac Carney agreed with the defendant, “Across the street, they’re holding trials, what is the difference? Does COVID not affect the north side of the street as much as it does the south side of the street?” The Ninth Circuit did not like that because there was a court policy saying that we were going to hold off on trials, and that complies with the Speedy Trial Act.
I was frustrated because there was no analysis of the Sixth Amendment, the actual Constitution. It was just on the statute. Judge Bumatay went through the right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment and said, “No, the purpose of it is to prevent criminal defendants from rotting in jail, awaiting their day in court. This particular defendant was out on bail, so there’s not any constitutional harm there.” I wondered if you noted any kind of interesting skirmishes or public debates about the way the judiciary in Texas or the Fifth Circuit was responding to the pandemic.
Todd and I have talked about this, but we feel like our podcast inadvertently ended up being a little bit of a historical record on that. Texas had a double whammy. We got hit by the pandemic. To the everlasting credit of our state judiciary, they moved fast. Within a week, they had Zoom accounts and YouTube channels available for courts so they could go completely online, which was amazing and got them to do it. For the most part, all of the judges moved pretty quickly over to that.
They didn’t end up having to stop all proceedings, but the jury trial issue took a lot longer to figure out, and the Supreme Court did it through a series of continuing emergency orders. In fact, they just issued their last emergency order earlier in 2023. That was interesting to watch. Ultimately, over the course of the pandemic, some civil courts figured out ways to do civil jury trials completely remotely.
All the judges agreed, “It’s not a substitute for a regular jury trial, but we can do it if this is what we have to do.” The criminal side obviously has some different constitutional implications, and I’m not aware of a virtual criminal jury trial. They may have had 1 or 2, but I think they were pretty rare. The federal court here was a little bit different. The Fifth Circuit left it up to the individual district courts to make their decisions on how they wanted to proceed. My recollection was that the Fifth Circuit was doing virtual arguments. Maybe there were some in-person ones, but they left it to the discretion of the different judges and districts to decide how they wanted to handle it.
There’s a double whammy that hit our courts. The pandemic hit in March. In May, all of our appellate courts were hit by ransomware, so they were all locked out. They’re all on the same system. A number of those courts lost just about everything. They lost their draft opinions and internal notes. Different courts, depending on their systems, were hit differently. They literally couldn’t do anything for several weeks while they rebuilt the systems from backups and everything. It was a wild time from about March to June of 2020 in the appellate world.
That is some stuff going after the courts. How did that get resolved? Did they catch the perpetrators? Did the government pay the ransomware? How did they get off of that?
They did not pay the ransom. My understanding was it was a typical phishing email. One person clicked on the wrong thing, and the next thing you know the whole system’s crashing. The problem is, I understand it was that the backup system was also linked to the same computer system. It also got to and unwound the backups.
It was resolved and the courts were able to somehow either reconstruct from documents that they had on their personal hard drives for their computers and so forth. By this point, everybody was already working remotely, so there was a lot of data being stored in various places. It did take a long time to get that fixed. Fortunately, once they got it up and running again, things are business as usual, but everyone in the state and all the courts have been very well trained on phishing and ransomware now. It’s just unfortunate that we had to go through something like that right on the heels of COVID getting serious.
That’s heartless as it is right during the pandemic. What are some silver linings that you’ve seen out of the pandemic? I think a lot of attorneys have talked about it. At least around here, I assume it’s the same in Texas. Everyone’s got shiny new remote appearance technology, so you don’t have to drive all the way across town to attend a calendar meeting. Even law and motions in a lot of departments I appear in are all remote appearances. Is that is that the same in Texas? Is that a welcomed development?
I would say generally it’s a welcomed development. It’s not exactly the same. Jody alluded to the final emergency order that was issued by the Supreme Court back around the end of January 2023. What the court did is very wise. The court learned from the experience of having remote proceedings and sees the value that it brings, such as what you’re getting at, Tim, with the efficiency part of it. Especially in a state, and California is a big state, Texas is a really big state geographically.
With lawyers trying to represent clients in vastly distant jurisdictions or counties sometimes, the practicality of that is somewhat difficult. Zoom court taught us that this can happen and that it is a very useful purpose to have this technology stay with us, even after the pandemic has subsided certainly and when it’s over.
The Supreme Court decided that we’re not going to have any more emergency orders, which was the authority for courts to proceed with these kinds of remote proceedings. What it did was it rewrote one of the rules of civil procedure to specifically incorporate the possibility of remote proceedings. That can be set by the court, set or noticed by the parties, but everyone has the opportunity to object if there is a remote proceeding noticed.
The presumption built into the rules is that all proceedings are going to be in person. As a practical matter, everybody knows I don’t want to go to a docket call or pretrial hearing if I can help it in El Paso, which will take up a whole day for me to get there and back. I haven’t seen or heard much anecdotally about how that’s gone since the new rule went into effect on February 1, 2023.
It’s still pretty new, but it’s generally well received. This is a good thing to come out of the pandemic. I don’t have to get in my car or get on an airplane and go to El Paso for a pretrial hearing. It can be handled remotely. You do have to factor in the fact that it’s in a different time zone, which makes things a little bit odd, but this is definitely one of the upsides. It’s the ability to handle more things remotely.
From the court’s perspective in adopting this, it also helps to serve access to justice purposes because you cut down on the cost of having someone go to another location. You can find a lawyer to represent you who’s not necessarily in your location but who can handle your matter efficiently as long as the remote access stuff continues. Despite the growing pains we had to go through, there’s been some upside that’s come out of it.
Todd, did I hear you say that the courts rewrote the Code of Civil Procedure?
In Texas, we’re not a code-based civil procedure. It’s rules based on enabling statutes. The Texas Supreme Court approves. Generally, they have a group that writes the proposed rules, and then they post them and have a comment, and then they end up approving them. They do write the civil procedure rules.
Do the brilliant minds in the legislature don’t get their hands on how many days you have to file a motion for summary judgment and those kinds of things?
Not unless they get mad and they change it, but up to this point, no.
We do have the legislature every so often poke around and tell our courts, “You only have so many days to rule on a motion for rehearing,” or, “It’s deemed overruled by operation of law.” That thing does happen rarely but occasionally. Our courts are in a good position to write and amend the rules of civil and appellate procedure. Most of our judges have been practicing lawyers, either litigators or trial judges, so they have some direct experience with those rules.
I can’t say the same for most of our legislators. We have a fair number of lawyers in our legislature, but we have a biennial legislature, and it’s in session now. Most of us lawyers hold our breath while the legislature is in session because we don’t know what they’re going to do to make our lives more difficult. Thankfully, it’s generally not rules.
Jeff, I know that you specialize in Anti-SLAPP stuff. Years ago, Texas did its first Anti-SLAPP statute. It was partly written by lawyers and partly written by legislators. It ended up swallowing the court system for about 6 or 7 years trying to sort out all the intricacies of that. They’ve amended it a couple of times since then and brought it back more to what the actual purpose of an Anti-SLAPP is. It got wild there for a while.
The pendulum has not swung back here in California. You have Anti-SLAPP motions, which are very useful and important. There are SMACCs, Strategic Motions Against Credible Claims, where the SLAPP procedures used to bog down lawsuits for years, tie them up in appeals, and discovery can’t move forward. We have not yet had a swing back of the pendulum yet. That’s sorely needed in California.
When was the California statute enacted, Jeff?
When our version of the Anti-SLAPP statute came out, a lot of people pointed to California as an example and cited a bunch of California cases, as I remember. My thought at the time was, “This is Texas. Why do we need to look at California?” No offense to my California friends, but there are some ways that we probably could have stood to have looked at California more. That’s interesting to hear that pendulum is still in favor. I love that term, SMACCs. I wish I thought of that and implemented it years ago.
I wish I had. I stole it from someone else on Twitter who came up with it and with full attribution. It’s of use, especially in the case where it’s a frivolous SLAPP motion. The other side is sanctioned for filing a frivolous SLAPP motion. They can still freeze things up, take it up on appeal, and earn two years’ worth of attorney’s fees. It’s terrible.
Every problem needs a good acronym to address it.
I will say that we’ve got the same problem with our statute. We had on our show our friend Jerry Bullard, who monitors the Texas legislature very closely. That’s one of the issues that’s being discussed down the street from my office now. It’s whether to keep that stay in place.
If I could wave a magic wand on California’s law, if a superior court judge has made a decision that no reasonable lawyer would have filed this Anti-SLAPP, that’s enough right there to sanction and to cut off your immediate appellate rights. Be done.
It makes sense.
That’s the first time I’ve heard you say that, Jeff. Cutting off appellate rights, that cuts out the leg under both of your major practice areas, appeals and SLAPPs.
It’s a rare case. It’s the exception. It’s not the rule. Most Anti-SLAPP motions are justified and righteous.
While we’re doing a compare and contrast, it’s super interesting. In our state, the appeals from Anti-SLAPP orders are not final judgment appeals, they’re interlocutory appeals, we only get by statute. How is that set up in California? How is an Anti-SLAPP order made appealable?
The loser of the Anti-SLAPP has the right of immediate appeal, and most of the case in practice is stayed. Even if a couple of causes of action are stricken, the remainder of the case for practical purposes, there is a discovery state that takes 1 to 2 years to wind through the courts of appeal.
We have a one-final judgment rule. Basically, nothing’s appealable unless it’s a final judgment subject to exceptions. The exceptions are largely laid out in statutes that make interlocutory orders appealable. The Anti-SLAPP in Texas is the TCPA, Texas Citizens Participation Act being one example of that. Is that the same structure for you all where you’ve got statutes authorizing appeals for certain types of orders?
We have the one judgment rule and certain things are defined by statute as immediately appealable and are deemed a final judgment or final appealable order. Anti-SLAPP’s being predominant probably by volume.
The legislature felt so strongly about making Anti-SLAPP orders appealable, they made them appealable in two different statutes. There’s the appeal ability statute. That makes the Anti-SLAPP orders appealable, and then the Anti-SLAPP statute itself makes them appealable. They wanted to leave no question that they’re appealable.
With the denials of fee orders, or if you got a fee award but it wasn’t in the amount that you wanted or wasn’t a sufficient fee award, then that’s a partial denial. It’s not clear whether those are appealable by statute, but they may be appealable as a collateral order. There’s a split among the district courts of appeal in California on that question.
The other interesting thing about California SLAPP law is the Ninth Circuit entertains SLAPPs. Meaning if somebody decides to file at federal court, an Anti-SLAPP motion can be brought. Albeit, the plaintiff gets more discovery rights than they would in state court. If you are in the federal system in California, you still get the Anti-SLAPP remedy.
The Fifth Circuit has said no to that here in Texas.
It’s a procedural remedy, so no SLAPP in federal court.
It’s not considered a collateral order in the Fifth Circuit?
You can’t do it. You just can’t file them there because they consider it a state procedural issue.
That is a difference with the Ninth Circuit. They do a little bit of a Frankenstein thing with the Anti-SLAPPs because they try to find the justification for hearing Anti-SLAPPs in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. It’s a motion to dismiss and a motion for summary judgment, so it’s in the penumbra and emanations of Rule 12 and Rule 56.
We covered that the Texas Supreme Court is the primary promulgator of civil procedure in Texas. You mentioned that the legislature has a smattering of statutes where they like to get involved, but I take it they’re co-equal, the Supreme Court in Texas can promulgate a rule. Could it be inconsistent with the statute?
Probably not. Ultimately, the legislature would probably win out. Occasionally, the court will do something that the legislature says we don’t like. They’ll pass a statute that says, “Here’s what the rule in Texas is. Supreme Court, go make a rule that matches this.”
They do write rules designed to carry statutes in effect very frequently. When you said co-equal, it made me think about one thing that’s unique about our state. That is that we effectively have two high courts. We have the Texas Supreme Court, which has exclusively civil jurisdiction, and then the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is right across the hall in the same building. It has the final jurisdiction over criminal cases in Texas subject to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Are there different justices?
In the Court of Criminal Appeals, judges are called judges. They’re not called justices. The Supreme Court takes the lead on rule writing and things like that. The Court of Criminal Appeals typically signs off on rule changes that have any effect on anything to do with rules of evidence in criminal proceedings. It’s a little bit of an odd feature, but there’s maybe only one other state, maybe it’s Oklahoma that has a dual system like that, and something of interest to your audience in California.
I’m not sure what column to put Texas in. This is what I’ve read. In most states, their Supreme Courts are the primary promulgators of civil procedure. California follows basically the federal model where it’s mostly set by statute. We have a judicial council here under the Supreme Court that promulgates rules that can be gap fillers but are not meant to contradict anything that’s in the Code of Civil Procedure that is a statute. It seems like Texas doesn’t quite fit easily in one camp or the other.
The other thing I’ll add is our Supreme Court does have a generally good working relationship with the legislature. It has to go there for funding to get its budgets approved. The idea that the legislature doesn’t tell the court the details of how to do something, as Jody’s pointed out, there generally is a statute that’s enacted, and they’ve basically said, “Here you go, Supreme Court. Do something with this.” The legislature doesn’t tend to stick its nose in the business of rules in our state.
I’ll give an example. An example is like supersedeas. The legislature passed a statute that basically said, “Here are the limits on supersedeas in Texas, they’re A, B, and C.” It was up to the Supreme Court to take those limits and craft procedural rules to implement them, which they did in the appellate rules.
That’s the one I was trying to think of and couldn’t. Thanks, Jody, for having my back on that.
One of the areas in California where the two have been in conflict, being the courts and the legislature, has to do with the area of court reporters, whether or not you can use machinery, whether it’s digital recorders or tape recorders to record a hearing. The way that has played out is there was a push for a while to equip certain courtrooms with machinery to record proceedings. That was met with resistance from the court reporter lobby.
There was a conflicting case, and it turns out the legislature has the ultimate say there. Let me say this. Right now in California, we are stuck with a huge court reporter crisis. If you’re in LA County or you take the 405 down to Orange County, you got to bring your own court reporter to a civil hearing. You still get a court reporter for criminal, but civil in LA Family Law or probate, if you want an appellate record, you got to bring your own court reporter. I was wondering. In Texas, is there a shortage of court reporters, or are audio recordings used and transcribed later?
I don’t know about the shortage. The general rule is most courts have their own reporter, though that’s not totally true. There are some courts that you have to make arrangements for, but it’s usually more maybe specialized courts or smaller courts. Most district courts, which are our general jurisdiction trial courts, have their own court reporters. Although it’s typically incumbent for you to ask for a record, a lot of them don’t have a court reporter that sits down when the docket starts. That doesn’t mean you have to provide it, but there are some. I don’t know of any courts that have done away with court reporters completely. Todd may know.
I do not. Even in our very urban counties, the court reporters are still standard. I have heard a tale of the court reporter shortage, but as Jody says, any court here I go to on a regular basis has an official court reporter. That makes it pretty easy for us. We’re not having to provide our own. If you’ve got a visiting judge or a special judge under one of our statutory procedures for basically ADR, somebody other than your sitting trial judge for your case, it’s pretty common to have to provide your own. It’s not a significant crisis for the civil litigators here in Texas.
It’s easy for the appellate lawyers here on high to say, “That’s a trial court problem. It’s not an appellate lawyer problem,” until you get handed a record or no record on an abusive discretion issue. You’re told, “Go appeal this.” You got no bullets in your gun.
No record means no appeal. No appeal means no appellate billings.
I can see that being a problem, for sure.
That’s more like a nerf gun than a real weapon.
There are two problems in California. The first, Jody reminded me of it. It was many years ago that because of a budget issue, the court stopped providing court reporters, so then they went freelance. That was still not a problem to find a court reporter as long as you were mindful, then the appellate attorney’s advice was always, “Did you get a court reporter for your big hearing tomorrow? Don’t forget to sign up a court reporter.”
Now the problem is you show up to these hearings, there are 10 cases on the docket and there are 6 court reporters sitting around waiting for their individual hearings to come up. That’s a total waste of resources because since that time of the budget shortage with the courts, now the courts don’t have the budget shortage. They’re throwing money around trying to find more court reporters to sign up for the profession because there’s been attrition over the last several years.
I’ve talked to several court reporters about this, “Why aren’t more people signing up?” There are court reporter training schools that are closing down. There’s a Los Angeles Superior Court paper that came out in February 2023 that said that the gap that we’re trying to fill or the shortage is about 2,750 court reporters. That’s what they say we need. In 2022, there were 150 or so people who sat to take the certified court shorthand reporter examination, and of those only 37 passed. At that rate, it’s going to take 75 years to fill that gap.
We’re going to go ahead and say this is Todd’s individual opinion.
We mentioned the court reporter lobby in California. It’s the same here. It’s extremely strong. If you keep up with what’s going on in the world of technology, you have to ask yourself, “Is it necessary?” We’ve got AIs that can pass the bar exam now. Can’t we get an AI to transcribe a proceeding? There are going to be elements of human error in every transcript. Is it worse than the AI error? I don’t know. The reason it’s going to make me unpopular is because we have people who do work as court reporters, and it’s a viable and valid profession. If we’re having trouble filling the seats, maybe it’s time to look at other options.
Since you brought it up, in California I saw that there is a new bill, SB 62, has been proposed to allow electronic recording in all civil cases. This was tried, crashed, and burned terribly back in the ’90s because the court reporter lobby is quite strong. We’ll see if things have changed now because they haven’t been able to replace their numbers. It becomes a harder argument to say, “We need job security.” We’re throwing money at you, but there’s not enough of you so we need another solution.
Let me offer a concurring opinion, if I could, to Todd. You’ll always need a live court reporter at a deposition where you don’t have a referee, people are talking all over each other, and you need a court reporter to throw a shoe at someone to get them to pause. In a courtroom, whether it’s a dude or a dudette in a black robe who can maintain order in the courtroom, a tape recorder’s fine. You hand it over to AI afterward. I’m with you.
We have in our rules a provision that allows for court recorders. Very rarely, I can’t think of a case I’ve ever handled where that was an issue. Everybody tends to default to the traditional way of dealing with getting a record.
Now that we have all this shiny new remote appearance technology, everyone is mic’d up and camera’d up. All you have to do is hit the record button, and then you at least have an unofficial digital recording that you could turn into a transcript later on. In California, the court reporter lobby thought of that, and so they’ve got a statute on the books here that says, “You may not record under any circumstances, except for the purposes authorized under the statute.”
It’s interesting that came from the court reporter lobby and not the courts themselves.
It’s a statute. Let me ask you a couple of other questions for purposes of comparison. One of my favorite hobby horses is about unpublished opinions and the related issue of stare decisis. In California, it’s unlike the federal system. There’s no horizontal stare decisis here. The First District Court of Appeal can issue an opinion on Monday. The Second District Court of Appeal can issue a completely 180-degree opinion on Tuesday. The First District can come back around on Wednesday and reverse itself in another case. It’s not even binding on itself. No horizontal stare decisis. I wonder if that’s the same or different in Texas State Court.
It’s different in terms of its all persuasive authority, but in Texas you can cite any unpublished opinion since 2003. We do this routinely which works out well because, with 14 Courts of Appeals, so many questions have at least been answered somewhere. That doesn’t mean that they’re going to necessarily follow it, but they definitely do that.
We have another interesting wrinkle. They do docket equalization here among the Courts of Appeals where they try and make the statistics so that each individual justice in the various courts has about the same number of cases, which means that you get cases transferred all over. They’ve changed the rules where whatever the law of that court is comes with the case to the new court. Even if they might have a different rule in Amarillo, they have to apply the Fort Worth Court of Appeals precedent if it came from that court.
It’s a little different on horizontal here, too, because aside from unpublished opinions, our courts generally sit in three-judge panels. You might have a problem with a different panel of the same court reaching a different conclusion on the same issue in a similar case. That’s what the en banc review is supposed to be for.
Technically, the decisions of that court are binding on other panels of the same court, but they don’t always know that. It’s like two ships passing in the night sometimes. That is a very specific purpose for en banc review under our rules. It’s to make sure that the body of law within that specific jurisdiction stays uniform, and that there’s no conflicting precedent.
In the Texas state appellate system, do you have a procedure for en banc review?
Right. Every Court of Appeals has it. Although we have a few three-judge courts that it technically is meaningless.
Those guys are going to pretty much know what their own opinions are. It’s not as big of an issue. It’s when you get to a court like Dallas and the Houston courts. Dallas has more than a dozen judges. Every decision is en banc in the Supreme Court. There’s not an issue there, but it does get to be interesting with the larger urban courts specifically.
Houston has two separate independent appellate courts with the exact same geographic jurisdiction in the same building. In theory, in Houston you can have both courts in conflict with one another, and you just have to guess and hope you get to appeal to the right court.
Which one is binding?
Both of them. That’s the tricky part.
They’re both binding.
That’s more like California, I would say.
That’s one of my more frequent bits of advice to trial attorneys. I say, “Look over my appellate brief.” I’ll see “Binding appellate authority says.” I said, “Take out the word binding. None of our appellate authorities are binding on any other appellate court.”
Your pet issue about unpublished opinions used to be a real problem in Texas. Many years ago, the Supreme Court changed the rules, so the unpublished opinions don’t even call them that anymore. It’s now, “You have an opinion, which is something that gets published in the official reporter. You have a memorandum opinion.”
It’s not an unpublished opinion, but a memorandum opinion, which doesn’t get published in the official reporter but is readily available on all the usual sites. It does count as binding authority. Before that, there were published and unpublished. The reason why it got to be a problem, and it’s totally related to your observation, is the fact that the courts knew what they were putting out was not going to be used against them or anyone else. In my experience, some courts would basically unpublish everything that they put out so that it would decrease the chances of a Supreme Court review. This was a widely known fact many years ago, but it’s not an issue now, thankfully.
That is my hobby horse. Our audience has heard it quite enough. I’ll share again. Here’s one of my favorite bits of advice that we got from a guest on the podcast. Former Appellate Justice James Lambden said that because there’s no horizontal stare decisis, even if you find an unpublished opinion that’s on all fours and you just so wish that you could have cited it, it’s not binding anyway. Take the arguments that you like and hope that they’re persuasive because the only thing that’s binding is a persuasive argument.
That was the strategy before the rule changed. You find that one case and that one unpublished opinion that was on all fours with yours. It’s like, “Can I cite it?” I used to have lawyers come into my office at the time, “Can I cite it?” No. Fortunately, as Jody’s pointed out, you actually can cite those now and they’re a persuasive authority. The work of the Courts of Appeals pre-January 1, 2003, is not wasted.
A quick question about evidentiary rulings. All evidentiary rulings in California like in the federal system are almost always reviewed for abuse of discretion. I’ve always been a little bit perplexed by this. It’s either hearsay or it’s not hearsay, it’s not a discretionary call. In Texas, is it the same way? Is it all discretionary?
Pretty much. Arguably, if it has something to do with an interpretation of the text of a rule, it could be de novo, but good luck spinning that.
The way that Texas answers that question is to say that the court has no jurisdiction to decide what the law is. The law is the law. If you misinterpret the law, you abuse your discretion.
That comes up the most in mandamus. It’s a discovery fight or something.
I think you guys call it a writ of mandate.
We don’t like Latin in our courts.
Although the writ of mandate is a different thing in our superior courts.
A couple of weeks back, I showed up for an oral argument as the appellant. Before I could even spit out the opening line of my brilliant outline, the justice read off a three-sentence tentative ruling, which is the rare exception. In our courts, you don’t get tentative rulings. Sometimes once in a blue moon, you’ll get a focus letter, “We want to hear about this issue.” Out there in Texas, do you folks get a tentative ruling or focus letter ever in the Courts of Appeal?
No to the tentative ruling. Very occasionally, I see a focus letter, which most practitioners appreciate. I’ve had it happen maybe five times over the course of my career. It happens, but it’s increasingly rare.
We’ve discussed it on the podcast before. I handled an appeal in California many years ago. It was in Rancho Cucamonga. The court issued a tentative opinion a week or so before the argument. I went out and argued. The tentative opinion was in my favor. It was the easiest oral argument I ever had to prep for because it was like, “You got it right. You can’t find any fault with this reasoning, judges.” I liked it. I’ve never had that come up again in all my years of practice. There are some benefits to that. It would be nice in more cases to know exactly what was drawing the interest of the appellate court before you got to OA.
In Texas, do you have a right to written opinions in all your cases? In Florida, for example, they do per curiam affirmances. It’s a summary affirmance with no rationale given. That blew my socks off when I heard that. I thought, “How can you live with that? You put all that time and investment into that case and that’s all you get? The affirmed period?”
We do have the right to a written opinion. This is where the distinction between a memorandum opinion and an opinion is made. Your ordinary appeals absolutely have a right to a written opinion that decides the issues presented to the court.
Are there any other procedural tips and traps that you think may be unique to Texas that you think other jurisdictions should adopt? Anything that you like to get on your soapbox about and complain that Texas needs to fix this problem? It’s why I started this jurisdictional comparison analysis. It’s to assuage some of my frustration with things that I don’t like about California procedure and see if it’s different. Maybe in some ways, we do some things better than other states. I was especially alarmed when I found out about that Florida rule that you don’t have a right to reasoned opinions on affirmances.
Let me answer your question with a question. How soon after a final judgment is signed is your judgment enforceable?
One thing that I like that we do is you can’t get a writ of execution on a final judgment for 30 days after the judgment is signed. One thing that made it difficult for me earlier in my career was when I would move between state and federal practices. The federal rule used to be more like California, where it was practically immediately, a very short period of time, before the judgment could be enforced.
The federal rule has changed since then, but it is nice to have a little bit of a buffer from the time the judgment is signed before you know you’re going to be facing a writ of execution or a receivership. You might get post-judgment discovery, but typically that’s not going to be due for 30 days. That part, not being able to go and start collecting immediately, does help clients who are judgment debtors trying to get their ducks in a row and get a supersedeas bond or do whatever they’re going to do to try and get the judgment stayed.
I will say one area that could use a little improvement is we have two different records. You have the clerk’s record, which is all the papers that are filed with the clerk, and then you have the reporter’s record, which is the transcripts. They’re separate. You have to request them separately. It sure is nice. I’ve had a couple of appeals in the Fifth Circuit where you say, “Send the record up. Here are the things that need to be included in the transcript.”
You get one nice PDF file with all of it sequentially numbered, and it’s all together. You have to do a lot of maneuvering here sometimes to get either record done and your time runs from the latter of the two filed. It would be nice to have more of a federal system where it all goes together, is numbered together, and all up at the same time, but it works.
That’s one thing that’s also different in California as compared to the federal. In the federal system, the appellate record is basically everything that’s in the trial court docket. You’re supposed to send up an excerpt of record as they call it in the Ninth Circuit and the Fifth Circuit. Everywhere else calls it the appendix, but that’s just for the ease and convenience of the judges on the panel.
If there’s something missing, it doesn’t mean the appellant has waived and forfeited this argument. You can still cite to the docket. It’s still in the record. It’s just not in the convenient handy-dandy appendix. In California, if you don’t put it in your appellant’s appendix or identify it to be included in the clerk’s transcript, you’ve waived that issue. It’s done and gone forever. I even got an appellant sanctioned for making arguments based on evidence that they forgot to include in the appendix. It’s a big deal. If you don’t transmit everything from the trial court docket into the appendix or the clerk’s transcript, you’re done and gone in terms of appellate review.
Those rules shouldn’t exist, especially in a world of pro se litigants or lawyers maybe a little out of their lane trying to handle an appeal. There are too many bad things that can happen that don’t affect anything, but it’s a matter of somebody didn’t check all the boxes. One thing I can say about our Supreme Court and its approach to rules is it has tried to take away those things from our system.
They actually reach the merits of issues and things aren’t decided on the waiver. The first point in an appellee’s brief isn’t that the appellant waives their entire case. That shouldn’t be. I want to ask you guys a question. That has to do with something we touched on a little bit here about bonds and stays. In Texas, just because you file a notice of appeal does not mean your judgment is not enforceable. Is it the same in California, or does an appeal automatically stay a judgment?
It depends. It’s all kinds of the default rule that everything has stayed, and then the exception is almost nothing is stayed. There’s a whole host of exceptions to the exception. That’s your starting point. Money judgments are not stayed, so you have to get a bond, except for money judgments that are entirely cost or attorney fees awards. Those are deemed to fall under the normal rule that they are stayed.
Except Anti-SLAPP fee awards are absolutely never stayed.
Jeff always knows where I’m going with that one. We have a running debate on that. There’s a split of authority on that. Jeff won’t even acknowledge that there’s a split of authority.
There is no split. None of it is binding authority anyway.
Bonds and stays are a big overlooked area of appellate practice. You filed your notice of appeal, you’re assembling your record, then you’ve closed the door and turned off the phone, and you’re happily doing your brief. Meanwhile, your client is getting hit with levies, writs of execution, and judgment debtor examinations. Where are you? You’re just happily plodding away.
Tim, climb down out of the ivory tower and get them to stop executing on this judgment.
That’s right. Just be patient.
That’s why I tell them to hire the armored car and show up with the money.
That’s a good way of wrapping back to the beginning of the conversation.
We’ve saturated our audience with a lot of appellate procedure nerdery at this point.
I do want to hit you guys with a lightning round. In keeping with our initial approach to this episode, this is the time for our patented and copyrighted segment of the Texas Appellate Law Podcast that answers the most pressing questions that vex appellate nerds around the world, the dreaded lightning round.
You need to send a cease and desist letter. That’s our patented copyright.
We are incorporating it at this point. Jody, why don’t we tag team them on this? Short responses, one sentence. Jody, you go first.
What is your font preference for your brief?
There’s no preference. There’s just the right answer. Century Schoolbook.
Another firebrand question. Two spaces or one space after a period?
I’m not as fervent as Jeff, but I’m a one-spacer also.
I’m a oner myself, so I’ll view that as the correct answer without passing any judgment on Jody.
How do you do your headings? Caps, initial caps, sentence case?
All caps is shouting, unless it’s a one-word introduction. Otherwise, I try to do all my headings in sentence case.
You’re still holding on to initial caps, Jeff?
Yes, absolutely. I’m old school. I’m conservative.
I like initial caps, too, but I’m trying to come around to sentence case. Are you an em dasher?
I’m an en dasher, the shorter dasher. I used to be an em, the long dash with no spaces on the side, but when I externed at the Court of Appeal here in Santa Ana, they didn’t use that. They used the en dash, the shorter dash with spaces on either side. That’s what I’ve done ever since.
I don’t know how to properly use dashes, so I avoid them. Those are commas. My sentence is too long if it involves commas or dashes.
None of the above. I like it.
Isn’t this in Strunk & White? Isn’t there a right answer to this question?
The Chicago Style Manual says it’s em dashes, the long dash. By the way, I should say Tim prepared this list and he did so with his bias, so I have to insert a question. Out there in Texas, do you folks use the parenthetical signal of cleaned up? Do you guys use cleaned up?
I have used it, but I will say it depends on the court that I’m in. If it’s in a court where I’ve seen the other judges do it, I’ll do it. I don’t necessarily trot it out in ones where I haven’t seen it.
I feel like it’s my obligation to help bring courts and judges into the 21st century, so I will use it regardless of where I am, but I use it judiciously and only when it adds to the content.
I’m the lone holdout then. I’ve never used cleaned up and I have no plans to use cleaned up.
You hate it so much, you even deleted it from our lightning round list. You’re a monster.
I included it.
It’s on the one I have.
My eyes must be going.
I don’t know how we wrap this up, but I’ll tell you guys, it’s been a lot of fun.
It’s been great fun.
We could have talked easily another half hour, but we’ve gone maybe a little longer than either of our typical episodes run. This is a great idea. I’m glad we did it. We ought to consider doing it again sometime. This turned out great. We’re glad to get the opportunity to do it. Thanks for taking the initiative on it.
Likewise. Great to have you on the California version of the Texas Appellate Law Podcast, and vice versa.
We appreciate it. Thanks so much.
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About Tim Kowal
Tim’s practice focuses on both trials and appeals. In his litigation practice, Tim represents clients in cases involving lender disputes, real estate development disputes, trespass and easement disputes, fraud and fraudulent transfers, breaches of fiduciary duty, promissory notes, trade secrets and unfair business practices, conversion, and most types of business and financial disputes.
In his appellate practice, Tim works directly with trial attorneys throughout litigation, including dispositive motions, evidentiary hearings, trial, and posttrial motions, writs, and appeals, in state and federal courts. Tim has substantial experience in obtaining stays of judgment enforcement during appeal.
Using both trial and appellate court remedies, Tim specializes in developing unique legal strategies for his clients. Tim’s trial and appellate victories total over $60 million.
Tim is co-host of the California Appellate Law Podcast, providing legal updates and practice tips to trial and appellate attorneys.
Tim taught civil procedure as an adjunct professor of law at the Fowler School of Law from 2015 to 2017.
Outside of his legal practice, Tim is active in his community in Huntington Beach. Tim and his wife, Andi, worked with councilmembers in 2017 toward making HB the third Orange County city to stop using glyphosate and toxic herbicides in city parks.
While in law school, Tim served as Editor-in-Chief of the Chapman Law Review. Before practicing law, Tim helped run a successful IT sales and consulting firm in Orange County that continues to serve small businesses and individual customers in the region. He graduated from UC Irvine with a B.A. in philosophy, and is an alumnus of St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower.
About Jeff Lewis
Jeff Lewis has been practicing law in Southern California since 1996. He is a certified appellate specialist by the California State Bar. He focuses his practice in four areas: Appellate Law, First Amendment Litigation, General Litigation and Land Use (in the Palos Verdes area).
Mr. Lewis attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Economics in 1992. Thereafter, he obtained his Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School in 1996.
Mr. Lewis has been a member of the State Bar of California since 1996, and he is admitted to practice before the California and U.S. District Courts for the Northern, Eastern, Central and Southern Districts of California; the Eastern District of Michigan; and the United States Court of Appeal, Ninth and Sixth Circuits. Mr. Lewis is also admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court.
Mr. Lewis is a member of the Orange County and Los Angeles County Bar Associations. Mr. Lewis is also a member of the Orange County Bar Association Mandatory Fee Arbitration Committee as well as the California Appellate Defense Counsel.
Jeff is married and lives in Rancho Palos Verdes. He, his wife and three young children have a passion for adventure and frequently travel to Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and San Francisco. Most weekends they can be found hiking, running, attending soccer games or geocaching. Jeff is an avid photographer, annually attends Comic-Con and is actively involved in the civic affairs of the city of Rancho Palos Verdes. Jeff is a past member of the city’s traffic and safety commission, served on the Rancho Palos Verdes Planning Commission between 2006 and 2014 and is the former president of RPV’s Council of Homeowners Associations (CHOA).
Since 1996, Jeff has participated in over 125 appellate proceedings in the California Court of Appeal.