Silly Lawyer Tricks XXVI. Whether or not the attorney's story is the electronic version of 'the dog ate my homework,' it is a cautionary tale

AuthorTom Donlon
Appellate Practice
American Bar Association Litigation Section
Winter 2022, Vol. 41 No. 2
© 2021 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be
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December 21, 2021
Silly Lawyer Tricks XXVI
Whether or not the attorney’s story is the electronic version
of “the dog ate my homework,” it is a cautionary tale.
By Tom Donlon
Disciplinary Couns. v. Valenti, 2021 WL 15555280 (Ohio
Apr. 21, 2021)
Some rules are fairly simple, e.g., when filing an appellate brief, be sure to file the correct
This case concerned an attorney disciplinary action involving three separate charges of
The first arose when the attorney was appointed as appellate counsel for a defendant
sentenced to life without possibility of parole. The attorney failed to file her appeal brief
after three extensions. Six weeks after the last due date, the appellate court issued a show
cause order for the attorney to file her brief within two weeks or have the appeal
dismissed. The attorney filed her initial brief on the last dayand then never filed a reply
At oral argument, both sides informed the court that the parties were waving argument and
standing on their briefs. One of the judges expressed concerns about the attorney’s brief,
stating that it contained abbreviations and citations that made no sense. It was, the judge
said, “52 pages of the most difficult reading I’ve ever probably done in 12 years.” Id. at
*1. Given the seriousness of her client’s sentence, the court gave the attorney two weeks to
file a reply brief to clarify her arguments and rescheduled oral argument. Id. The attorney
failed to file a replyeven after another extensionand the court removed her as
appellate counsel, noting that her brief was “inadequate, incoherent and unintelligible.” Id.
When this misconduct was raised at her disciplinary hearing, the attorney finally explained
that “she has inadvertently filed a draft of her brief and failed to save the final

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