Avoiding Procedural Traps on Appeal: Part 2 – Tips 11-20

In our previous blog post, Avoiding Procedural Traps on Appeal: Part 1, we featured the first 10 tips recommended by Judge Rebecca Glasgow of the Washington State Court of Appeals and Ian Cairns of Smith Goodfriend to ensure you avoid procedural traps when filing an appeal. In this week’s post, complete your knowledge by reading the remaining essential tips! You can download the full presentation of our 7th Annual Advanced Appellate Program (Washington) here.

11Failure to provide a sufficient record

  1. “An insufficient record on appeal precludes review of the alleged errors.” Bulzomi v. Dep’t of Labor & Indus., 72 Wn. App. 522, 525, 864 P.2d 996 (1994).
  2. Make an adequate record below, e.g., filing proposed instructions, making sure colloquies and rulings are recorded, and making offers of proof.
  3. Designate that record in the appellate court. See generally Title 9 of the RAPs.

12. Inviting Error

  1. “The doctrine of invited error ‘prohibits a party from setting up an error at trial and then complaining of it on appeal.’” State v. Wakefield, 130 Wn.2d 464, 475, 925 P.2d 183 (1996) (quoting State v. Pam, 101 Wn.2d 507, 511, 680 P.2d 762 (1984)).
  2. Don’t raise arguments subject to an invited error rebuttal where possible.
  3. Be prepared to explain how the alleged error was not actually “invited,” i.e., “an affirmative, knowing, and voluntary act,” State v. Mercado, 181 Wn. App. 624, 630, 326 P.3d 154 (2014), or to argue potential exceptions to the rule.

13. Judicial Estoppel

  1. Sometimes arises for the first time on appeal if arguing a party is taking a position contrary to one taken below.
  2. Preclusion of inconsistent positions regarding factual assertions.
  3. Precludes a party from taking one position below and then later trying to gain a tactical advantage by taking an opposite position.
  4. Does not prevent alternative arguments.

14. Raising new arguments on appeal

  1. “As a general rule, appellate courts will not consider issues raised for the first time on appeal.” State v. McFarland, 127 Wn.2d 322, 332-33, 899 P.2d 1251 (1995) (citing RAP 2.5(a)).
  2. If the time for doing so has not expired, consider filing a motion for reconsideration to more squarely preserve and frame appellate arguments.
  3. Under limited circumstances a party may raise new arguments on appeal. See RAP 2.5(a). Chapter 11 of the WSBA Appellate Practice Deskbook has comprehensive lists of issues that can and cannot be raised for the first time on appeal.
  4. There are also a number of case law exceptions to the general rule that new issues may not be heard on appeal. See § 11.4 of the WSBA Appellate Practice Deskbook.

15. Raising evidentiary issues on appeal

  1. If a trial court overrules an objection, then appellant cannot raise alternative ground for excluding evidence on appeal. The appellant must stick with the argument raised below. State v. Mak, 105 Wn.2d 692, 719, 718 P.2d 407 (1986). See also § 11.7(1)(a)(ii) of the WSBA Appellate Practice Deskbook.

16. Law of the Case doctrine

  1. On appeal. governed by RAP 2.5(c).

17. Raising new issues in a reply brief

  1. “An issue raised and argued for the first time in a reply brief is too late to warrant consideration.” Cowiche Canyon Conservancy v. Bosley, 118 Wn.2d 801, 809, 828 P.2d 549 (1992).
  2. Plan ahead! Make sure to include all assignments of error (and supporting arguments) necessary for the court to grant you the relief you are requesting, e.g., if asking for the reversal of a jury’s general verdict, challenge all claims that might support the verdict.
  3. While parties cannot raise new issues in a reply brief, “parties can clearly cite additional authority on appeal in support of issues they have already raised.” Brutsche v. City of Kent, 164 Wn.2d 664, 671 n.3, 193 P.3d 110 (2008).

18. Incorporating arguments by reference

  1. “We do not permit litigants to use incorporation by reference as a means to argue on appeal or to escape the [length] limits for briefs.” Diversified Wood Recycling, Inc. v. Johnson, 161 Wn. App. 859, 890, 251 P.3d 293 (2011).
  2. Make space in your brief for important arguments. If you absolutely must, file a motion for an overlength brief rather than incorporate an argument by reference. See RAP 10.4(b).

19. Placing arguments in a footnote

  1. After completing a draft of your brief, review footnotes to consider 1) whether they are necessary, and, if so, 2) whether they should be moved into the body of the brief.

20. Respondent’s failure to argue harmless error 

  1. Respondent: be sure to consider harmless error
  2. See, e.g., State v. Charlton, No. 55544-1-II, 515 P.3d 537, 547 (2022).
Faith Pincus

Leave a Reply