Law Student Q&A with First District Court of Appeals Judges

July 22, 2023

Durst Kerridge Attorneys Argue in First District Court of Appeals, Participate in Law Student Q&A with Judges

On June 20, 2023, I got to do two super fun things: present oral argument in the First District Court of Appeals and interact with future members of the legal profession. The First District published a press release about the latter. We love going to court. Post-COVID, Ohio civil litigation attorneys are rarely in court—other than pretrials and trial, court appearances in Hamilton County and the Southern District of Ohio are mostly telephonic, especially in commercial litigation and employment matters. When we have important court appearances, we make it a point to have young attorneys and law clerks attend and play a role if possible. For this argument, I was joined by my partner Paul Kerridge and both of our Summer Associates. Paul had very recently left one of Cincinnati’s largest law firms, where he was a leader in that firm’s Appellate Practice, to form what is now Durst Kerridge.

Our co-counsel, Diana Link of Link Nestheide Family Law, was also present and joined me at the counsel table. I consider Diana and her law partner to be the very best domestic relations attorneys in Cincinnati. We handle civil litigation and do not handle family law matters except when specially retained on appeal. This was one of those family law appeals – a same-sex custody case implicating significant constitutional law issues. The case had been thoroughly briefed. In fact, two amicus curiae briefs were even filed—the first time I have ever seen amicus briefs filed in the First District (which hears appeals from the trial courts in Hamilton County, Ohio). The parties’ combined briefing spanned hundreds of pages. The oral argument would be the culmination of nearly a year of appellate work and trial court proceedings dating back to 2018.

Thankfully, Paul joined the Firm shortly before a crucial component of our briefing was due. Having begun his career as an Assistant Ohio Attorney General working in the Appellate Division before going on to Clerk in the Supreme Court of Ohio and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, I strongly believe Paul knows more about constitutional law than just about any other attorney in Ohio. Preparing for oral argument is tedious. But once I feel ready, it becomes incredibly fun. The morning of the oral argument, we arrived at the Court of Appeals to discover that 20+ University of Cincinnati College of Law students and First District Court of Appeals interns were there to observe the day’s oral arguments. In fact, the courtroom was so packed that some law students (and even some members of our entourage) had to sit in an adjacent courtroom and watch by video.

Our case was last on the docket, so we got to watch the first two arguments. At the outset, the Judges informed us that due to the complexity of our case, each side would be afforded twenty minutes instead of the fifteen that the First District typically allows. Finally, it was our turn. We were representing the Appellant, so I was up. The panel was active and began asking questions right away. It is an amazing feeling standing at the podium advocating for a client whose cause I strongly believe in. It went great. Afterwards, two of the Judges, Judge Zayas and Judge Kinsley, invited us and our opposing counsel to stay and participate in a Meet & Greet and Q&A with the law students. Of course, we were glad to. The Judges introduced themselves, explaining their backgrounds and legal experience prior to taking the bench, and also introduced us. The students then had the opportunity to ask questions.

I always love interacting with law students. I do my best to give the kind of “they-don’t-teach-you-this-in-law-school” guidance I wish I had gotten before starting my career. One of my biggest pieces of advice to law students is to endeavor to truly understand what a day in the life of different types of attorneys is like, because it is often far different from what law students envision. Students are often passionate about a given area of law but sometimes have only a vague idea what practicing in that area is actually like – the good, the bad and the ugly. In law school, I was very interested in consumer law after working on a case involving a rent-to-own scam as a law student – what could be more fun than helping good, deserving people who are taken advantage of by unscrupulous businesses? But after seeing what consumer law was like in practice, I ultimately gravitated towards other areas of civil litigation, until settling on Ohio commercial litigation. I love all the strategy involved, the high-stakes, briefing complex procedural and substantive law issues, facing top attorneys on the other side and gleaning insight into a wide range of businesses and industries. Ohio commercial litigation is narrow enough to permit Durst Kerridge to strive to be the best, yet broad enough to never get boring.

The law students asked great questions. One student asked if our clients had been present to watch the oral argument. Excellent question. Opposing counsel then explained that he and I had spoken the day prior and agreed to both have our clients stay home. That is typical for appellate oral argument, but given this was a very personal case, either party would have wanted to appear if they knew the other party might appear. Opposing counsel (Jonathan Hilton of Hilton Parker, who had also been specially retained on appeal) pointed out to the law students the benefit of collegiality amongst opposing counsel. Our cordial relationship enabled us to simply agree that neither client would appear, removing an element of stress – and we had the mutual trust to know that neither would reneg at the last second. Coincidentally, Jonathan began his career at Jones Day where he worked with then-partner Chad Readler, now a Sixth Circuit Judge – Judge Readler is the Sixth Circuit Judge for whom Paul clerked – before leaving to form a boutique firm not dissimilar to Durst Kerridge.

All in all, it was a memorable day. I hope the students enjoyed it as much as the Judges and attorneys did.

About Durst Kerridge

Durst Kerridge maintains an extensive Ohio Appellate Practice and has achieved appellate victory at the highest levels. Our Appellate Practice is led by Partner Paul R. Kerridge, former Law Clerk to Justice Patrick Fischer of the Supreme Court of Ohio and Judge Chad Readler of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. To schedule a consultation, call Durst Kerridge today at (513) 621-4999 or reach out to Alex J. Durst or Paul R. Kerridge.

Alex J. Durst

Alex J. Durst is a civil trial attorney with over a decade of experience handling commercial and complex civil litigation matters on behalf of clients across a wide range of industries, with an emphasis on financial services litigation and high-dollar-value breach of contract claims.

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