United States: Michael Jung Completes Milestone 200th Appellate Oral Argument
Last Updated: November 25 2015

Strasburger's own Michael Jung recently accomplished a remarkable milestone, the completion of his 200th appellate oral argument. To put this in perspective, it is important to understand that courts of appeals are granting fewer and fewer oral arguments. For example, in 2001, Texas appellate courts granted oral argument in about 14% of their cases. By 2005, that percentage had dropped to about 9%.

Strasburger appellate attorney Jack Carnegie added another important fact, "The cases in which courts grant oral argument these days are the more significant and difficult cases. To have reached 200 oral arguments in this environment is astounding and indicates the number of sophisticated, complex cases Michael handles." Michael readily accepts these challenges and now has 200 arguments to show for it.

Michael has spent his entire legal career at Strasburger. To mark this accomplishment, we asked him a few questions about his memorable appellate career.

Q:        Do you still get nervous when you argue before an appellate court?

A.        Yes, to an extent. On the day of a scheduled argument, I get up in the morning and count how many hours I have until the argument. So if the argument is in six hours, I just remind myself that in six hours, it will all be over.

Q:        What was the most intimidating panel you've faced?

A.        Argument in the U.S. Supreme Court is the most intimidating: you are facing nine justices instead of the usual panel of three, there are a large number of people in the audience, including members of the press, and the scale is just much larger than lower courts.

Q.        If you could give a trial attorney one piece of advice to prevent them from needing your advice later, what would it be?

A.        My favorite saying is, "Trial lawyers say that if you try your case for appeal, you'll have to. But if you don't try your case for appeal, you'd better not have to."

Q.        Do you concern yourself with the opponent or just your argument?

A.        I usually just focus on the argument instead of the opponent, unless the judge asks questions about an opponent's particular argument. Thinking in advance about those possible questions is one of the most important things to do when preparing for an argument.

Q.        Have you ever been asked about a case you have never heard of?

A.        No, I have never been asked about a case that I have never heard of, although that is one of the things that makes me nervous. I am constantly terrified that it will happen, especially at the Supreme Court level.

Q.        What is your advice for lawyers going into their first oral argument?

A.        Spend a lot of time preparing! If three quarters of the time you spent preparing isn't wasted, then you didn't prepare enough.

Q.        What was your most memorable argument and why?

A.        My U.S. Supreme Court argument—my wife, mom, and law partner who happened to be vacationing in DC were all in the audience. The atmosphere and attention combined to make everything memorable. I went the day before my argument to watch another argument, so I would know what to expect, down to details like when to sit and when to stand. I also noticed that the justices were not as intimidating as I had expected. The experience of being in the Supreme Court before my argument was extremely beneficial.

Q.        Do you remember your very first argument?

A.        I do not remember the argument itself. It was the spring of 1982. I do remember it was a workers' compensation case in the Dallas Court of Appeals. The man had already been compensated for a leg injury. The injury began to cause issues with his hip, and he wanted more money. Even though I had only been with the firm for a year and a half, I successfully argued the case, and the plaintiff lost his appeal. My first argument in the Supreme Court of Texas was also memorable because Royal Brin was scheduled to argue the case but was stuck in Germany. I had to fill in for him on short notice. I ended up arguing against another attorney who also was arguing in that court for the first time, which was a stroke of luck!

Q.        Have you ever concluded an argument thinking you lost and then won?

A.        Yes, in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, I was working with a mid-air collision case. The presiding judge asked some pointed questions and seemed determined to rule against us, but unexpectedly wrote the opinion favoring my client's position.

Q.        How would you compare your first argument to your 200th?

A.        My 200th oral argument was in the Second Circuit in New York City, on a $35 million case involving the looting of a corporation. For that case, I was brought in at the end only to argue the case. In my first oral argument, I had handled the case from start to finish, including all the briefs. While I was happy for the opportunity to argue this last case, the briefs play a large role in how the argument turns out. If the briefs hurt you (which wasn't the case this time), you cannot fix it at argument because once you fail to brief a matter, you may have waived the point and can't make arguments that should have been available.

Q.        When do you think you'll hit 300 arguments?

A.        (Laughter). I have two more arguments scheduled this year. I won't be setting any numeric goals. I'd like to know when Royal Brin's last argument was and how many arguments he had.

Q.        Okay, we'll find out and hold you to that standard, both in numbers and longevity.

A.        (Laughter).

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