Don’t forget about the appendix–we use that, you know

by Ryan Koopmans | June 11, 2014

By Ryan Koopmans

This morning, Iowa Court of Appeals Judge Richard Doyle reminds us why the appendix shouldn’t be an afterthought:

I concur, but write separately to address a not uncommon appendix infirmity. Implicit in our rules of appellate procedure is that the parties include legible materials in the appendix. At best, the inclusion of illegible materials in the appendix is of little value to the reader, and at worst, the source of considerable frustration. We have previously stressed the importance of providing legible materials in the appendix. See Slycord v. Garrett, No. 13-1192, 2014 WL 1714955, at *3 n.3 (Iowa Ct. App. April 30, 2014). I reiterate what I said in Slycord. See id. Visualization of the subject matter of a land or property dispute is critical to a full understanding of the dispute. Plat maps, aerial photographs, photographs, and drawings are routinely used as trial exhibits to aid the finder of fact. Color is commonly employed in these exhibits to clearly delineate boundaries and ownership of lands, and witnesses testifying at trial typically refer to “this color parcel” or “that color line.” When appearing in an appendix on appeal, all too often these peacock-colored models of clarity have been transformed into illegible black-and-white head-scratchers. Such is the case here. It is frustrating to an appellate judge reading transcript testimony referring to colored exhibits while at the same time looking at black-and-white reproductions in the appendix. To be sure, the original trial exhibits are typically available to this court—but not readily available to those judges who office outside Des Moines. While we are cognizant of the fact that color reproductions in the appendix are more costly than black-and-white copies, it would be helpful to the court if litigants would at least include in the appendix color copies of those exhibits most critical to understanding the dispute.

This court’s mandate is to justly decide a high volume of appeals. See Iowa Ct. R. 21.11. The appendix is readily available to all. Clarity in the appendix promotes judicial efficiency, thus aiding this court in working toward meeting its mandate. With full implementation of EDMS and electronic appellate filing, the paper appendix will go the way of the dinosaur. But until then, all we suggest is that the parties exercise a little more care in producing their appendices.

That’s a good reminder for all of us on how important the appendix is to the judges and thus to the case. The briefs are key, of course. But it’s the appendix that the judges come back to again and again. That’s the document that’s tabbed, dog-eared, and tattered by the end of the appeal. And if it’s poorly organized or the documents are illegible, that frustrates the judge and reflects on the lawyers who signed it.





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