Both in the trial courts and in the appellate division, oral argument is an opportunity to marshal your best arguments, look the court in the eye and make the case why your client should prevail. However, in a time when it seems that every cost is closely scrutinized, is there still a place for a trip to court to say something already captured in writing? In short, yes. A recent published appellate decision affirmed both the explicit and implicit importance of oral argument.
In this tax foreclosure action, the trial court denied a prior lienholder's request for oral argument in opposition to a dispositive motion to enter final judgment. The trial judge denied the request with a one-sentence explanation, relying on an opinion involving a rule governing family matters. The appellate court found that such a request should have been granted as of right for the dispositive motion at issue, and reversed the trial court's decision.
In an interesting twist, the defending lienholder raised a second basis for reversal for the first time at oral argument. While the court declined to reverse on that issue, the fact that it was mentioned in the court's opinion at all suggests that it had some persuasive force. While it's better to brief every point of argument if you can, better raise it late at oral argument than never. Would the same result have be reached here without that issue being raised at argument? We'll never know, but it's still a good reason to request oral argument.
The decision can be accessed here:
CLARKSBORO, LLC VS. MARK KRONENBERG, ET AL. (F-031537-16, MORRIS COUNTY AND STATEWIDE