In a decision that the Ninth Circuit published “as a reminder that material breaches of our rules undermine the administration of justice and cannot be tolerated,” the court dismissed an appeal for counsel’s failure to submit a brief that complied with the rules. According to the court, the brief did not articulate the standard of review; did not contain a table of contents, table of authorities, citation to authorities, or accurate citation to the record; and made “virtually no legal arguments.” (Sekiya v. Gates, November 29, 2007)
The panel was clearly upset with counsel’s failure to present anything approaching a useful brief. On the other hand, it did give the panel the opportunity to quote from the court’s earlier decision in N/S Corp v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. to the effect: “we must insist that parties not clog the system by presenting us with a slubby mass of wordsrather than true brief.” Somehow, I doubt that no matter how long I practice law, I will never have the opportunity to use the phrase “slubby mass of words” in an appellate brief. It is nice to know, however, the if occasion does arise that I have this published Ninth Circuit decision to cite as authority.
My former classmate and one-time coworker, Joe Maloney, pointed this case out to me. Joe now practices out of Auburn, California, after a long stint at the US Attorney’s office in Sacramento.
UPDATE: As an interesting footnote to the case, the Ninth Circuit’s docket contains an entry cancelling oral argument because “The court is of the unanimous opinion that the facts and legal arguments in this case are adequately presented in the briefs and the record, and the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument.”
Given what the court had to say about the appellant’s brief, I suppose they were talking more about the record than the briefs in the case!