There are many conferences and continuing legal education programs for appellate lawyers and judges. In the past I have written that the best I have attended is the annual conference sponsored by the American Bar Association's Council of Appellate Lawyers (CAL).
About a week ago I returned from a four-day appellate law program in New Orleans sponsored by CAL, and I will say it again: this is, in my opinion, the best. In attendance were federal and state judges, and appellate lawyers, from across the United States, as well as other countries. I found everyone open, friendly, and frank.
From early in the morning to early evening there were excellent programs: musings about the United States Supreme Court from a panel of journalists who report on the Court; discussions of the technology changing appellate practice both for the lawyers and the judges; serious discussions on brief writing and appellate law ethics; reviews of the past Term of the Supreme Court; a look forward at the Court's current Term; and a reception at the Supreme Court of Louisiana. In the Supreme Court building there was a fascinating exhibit on Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), the United States Supreme Court's "separate but equal" case which began in Louisiana.
At last year's program a highlight was a one-hour interview of Justice Sonia Sotomayor. This year it was Justice Antonin Scalia's turn and he, too, was captivating. Most striking for me was his statement that his most important decision on the Court has been Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), the seminal criminal Right of Confrontation case. The ruling has been under attack by some of the other Justices, see e.g., Williams v. Illinois, 132 S.Ct. 2221 (2012), and when I spoke briefly to Justice Scalia at the reception which followed the interview, he expressed concern about Crawford's future.
An added delight was New Orleans. Jacqueline and I had never been to the city before, and when we arrived I was not immediately impressed. But the hotel in which the conference was held is located in the French Quarter, and with each passing day the city became more and more alluring: music in the air, excellent restaurants, friendly people, the gentle roll of the Mississippi River, and except for Bourbon Street, a relaxing tranquility.
The next conference will be held in San Diego from November 14-17, 2013. Mark your calendar and be there. You will not be disappointed.