St. Mary's Law Journal


Catherine Stone


It was not until 1987 that the State Bar of Texas created an Appellate Practice & Advocacy Section. As lawyers began concentrating on appellate law as a specialty, other practitioners began to realize that appellate practice requires a unique skill set. As recognition of this skill set grew, litigators began hiring these specialized lawyers to assist in preserving error at the trial level. Over the years, the need for a more professional approach to the practice of appellate law persisted until the “Standards of Appellate Conduct” (the Standards) was jointly adopted by the Texas Supreme Court and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 1999. The Standards are divided into four major themes. First, is the Lawyers’ Duties to Clients including the need to balance competing interests. Second, Lawyers’ Duties to the Court which remind appellate lawyers they are officers of the court. Third, the Lawyers’ Duties to Lawyers, which emphasizes the manner in which lawyers treat other lawyers and how it impacts the credibility of the judicial system. Lastly, the Court’s Relationship with Counsel contains standards to guide the court in its relationship with appellate practitioners. The drafters forecasted two primary benefits would follow from the Standards’ promulgation. First, the Standards educate the bar about the kind of conduct is expected and preferred by appellate courts. Second, the Standards give practitioners a valuable tool to use with clients who demand unprofessional conduct. Thus, the Standards demonstrate the concern which appellate practitioners have regarding professionalism and the bar’s need to police its own conduct. The courts’ acknowledgement of the Standards in case law demonstrates the Standards have not been written and forgotten but have a working application in the appellate bar.


St. Mary's University School of Law