November-December 2016

… And to all a good night!

To end this issue (and this year) on an appropriately festive note, here we reprint an oldie but a goodie. In 1991, Kim Stelter, then a first-year appellate prosecutor in Harris County, filed a motion to extend time to file State’s brief on Sears v. State. But this was no ordinary motion; she wrote it in the style of the classic poem “T’was the Night Before Christmas.”

T’was the weeks before Christmas and for some odd reason,
It’s also appellate’s busiest season,
When I finish a brief I get more for my trouble,
And the reading of records has my eyes seeing double.
Still Defense Counsels rush to file all their briefs,
With visions of dollars their efforts will reap.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But two weeks of vacation (I’ve saved it all year).
On Delta, on Southwest, on TWA,
I’m headed to Grandma’s—up, up, and away.
But wait, there’s one thing I’ve forgotten to mention,
I need your permission to get an extension.
I’ve filed lots of briefs, and they’re listed below,
But I can’t file them all, and I’ve got lots to go.
I hope that the new year will bring a solution,
“No more extensions” is next year’s resolution,
I’ll be back on the second and ready to write,
Until then, “Merry Christmas, and to all a good night.”
Delightful, yes? But it doesn’t end there! The court, having considered the motion, ordered as follows:

In the weeks before Christmas the motions pile high.
The judges plow through them with many a sigh.
The reasons are wondrous, incredible, and sly,
But now and then one catches the eye.
A creative DA took pen in hand
And rhymed us a reason. Heavens it’s grand
To read something other than the usual prose
It’s a real relief as any justice knows.
And besides it’s the holiday and we’re feeling kind,
We’ll help out anyone who’s in a real bind.
So here’s an extension in the appeal of Mr. Sears
We wish for everyone the best of all years.
The brief is now due on 1–29;
If you can’t get it here, better drop us a line.

“I’ve worked on lots of appeals in the years since and drafted hundreds of briefs, but this little motion seems to be my claim to fame—at least in the small world of Texas appellate law,” Kim told us recently. “I guess you never know what you’ll be remembered for.”
    We’re grateful for Kim’s creativity and her willingness to let us publish her poem (again) with her blessing. Happy holidays, everyone!