The Michigan Court of Appeals held oral arguments on campus today, open to the law school. My Civil Procedure professor required that we attend, but I was going to go anyway, and I’m absolutely glad I did. This was fascinating. Even after just a couple weeks of law school, the arguments rendered were by and large perfectly comprehensible to me, and the process of preesnting and defending a line of argumentation really appeals to me. I’m a sucker for both major substantive arguments and minor issues of terminology, and I got to see both on display in front of an absolutely hilarious set of judges today.
The best part, though? Watching bad lawyers. Seeing an obviously unprepared, poorly argued, barely planned oral argument for appeal (especially when the appeal or even the very case itself was ill-advised from the start) get simply eviscerated by a judge is as entertaining as watching bad reality television. You know you shouldn’t be consuming such trash, and you cringe even as it happens, but you just cannot turn away. One lawyer, who ignored basic elements of the critical Michigan insurance statute in filing his case in the first place, was allowed to talk for a good 30 minutes in front of an entirely unsympathetic court and talk himself deeper and deeper into a hole. The judges asked basic questions, most of them along the lines of “so exactly why are you here?” and “I fail to see how you have said anything that is any different from the question I just asked you,” but largely let him make a fool of himself in front of an audience of 100+ 1L law students. His opponent’s basic and wholly believable response was simply, “Everything he has said is just not true.” The capstone to this comedy of errors was when it was revealed that the actual substantive case had been long settled (based as it was on pure greedy fraudulence), and the entire point of the appeal was to claim $10k “plus interest” (the schmuck unhelpfully insisted) in attorney’s fees. At this point, one judge just put his head in his hands for the entirety of the rebuttal.
Aside from a viciously delicious case of schadenfreude, what I really enjoyed about the whole experience was the sense that I could be pretty good at this whole thing should I ever get the chance. I know that most of my experiences with opposing council will not be so one-sided at all, but I cannot help but think “I would DESTROY a man like that in a case.” It’s a nice little boost of confidence, and a reassurance that I’ve chosen the right professional path. I’m actually getting excited about the real practice of law. This should be fun.