Appeals generally seek one of two results: Securing a hard-fought victory obtained in the trial court or overturning a trial court’s adverse decision. Each context generates unique challenges and potential strategies, all of which revolve around properly understanding the trial court record and precedent while distilling out winning theories and arguments on appeal. Our attorneys have a demonstrated, keen ability to thrive in both contexts. They have handled appeals both after having served as trial court counsel as well as in instances where clients are looking for a fresh perspective on appeal. In both contexts, Meissner Tierney Fisher & Nichols recognizes the need for a creative analysis and argument.
Meissner Tierney has experience practicing in all facets of appellate work. We recognize both that appellate practice, when done properly, is a specialty but also that one can best understand appeals only from having also litigated cases in the trial court. Our appellate attorneys thrive at digesting complex facts and law, identifying best-available arguments and strategies and, ultimately, presenting those arguments in the most-cogent fashion. What’s more, we know how to persuasively incorporate public policy arguments—which are sometimes of great interest to appellate courts—with the fundamental facts and legal issues at play in a specific appeal.
Our attorneys have been recognized as leaders in appellate practice. We have attorneys who have taught appellate law, who have served as law clerks on federal and state appellate courts, who have been honored as appellate practitioners by peer-reviewed attorney-rating services, and who have served (and held leadership positions) on the State Bar of Wisconsin Appellate Practice Section Board. We dedicate hours to reading appellate decisions in a variety of fields, gaining familiarity with the individual Judges and Justices who make those decisions, and staying current with appellate procedures.
Most importantly, our solid reputation for handling appeals comes after winning in the courtroom. We have received favorable appellate rulings for our clients for decades, including in some very high profile cases—both in Wisconsin and elsewhere. By way of only a few examples:
- Attorneys Michael Cohen and Thomas Hruz secured victories in both the trial court and intermediate court of appeals in the case of Cargill, Inc. v. Ace American Ins. Co., 784 N.W.2d 341 (Minn. 2010), by convincing the Minnesota Supreme Court to overturn 40-plus years of precedent. The case involved a complex environmental insurance coverage action and, under the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision, liability insurers in the state have been granted a newfound right to contribution from other insurers as to their duty to defend an insured.
- In Samuel C. Johnson 1988 Trust v. Bayfield County, 649 F.3d 799 (7th Cir. 2011), Attorneys William Stuart and Thomas Hruz successfully overcame an adverse district court decision and difficult precedent to convince the Seventh Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals to protect private property owners from a local government putting an ATV/snowmobile trail through the middle of their properties, all without compensation.
Finally, our attorneys also have served as counsel for organizations seeking to protect their members’ interests through the filing of amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs. This important work is done for appeals in which the disposition of the case could dramatically affect such organizations’ interests.
- In the matter of sanctions imposed in State v. Gregory K. Nielsen
2011 WI 94, 337 Wis. 2d 302, 805 N.W.2d 353 (Wis. 2011). On behalf of the Appellate Practice Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin, as an amicus curiae party, Thomas Hruz helped to persuade the Wisconsin Supreme Court to instruct the Wisconsin Court of Appeals—when that court considers imposing sanctions on an attorney or party for alleged rules violations—to first issue an order to show cause, so that such attorney or party can first attempt to explain why a rules violation should not be found and why sanctions should not be imposed. The decision is of great benefit to appellate practitioners in Wisconsin and consistent with notions of due process and fairness, all while fully retaining the Court of Appeals’ ability to fully enforce its rules.
- Cargill, Inc. v. Ace American Insurance Company, et al.
784 N.W.2d 341 (Minn. 2010). A complex environmental insurance coverage action in which the client, a nationally renown liability insurer, obtained summary judgment in its favor, with such decision being affirmed by the Minnesota Court of Appeals and then, on other grounds, by the Minnesota Supreme Court. In doing so, Attorneys Michael Cohen and Thomas Hruz convinced the Minnesota Supreme Court to overrule a 43-year-old precedent and create new law on contribution rights between insurers as to their duty to defend an insured, all in a manner favorable to our client and insurers generally.
- Samuel C. Johnson 1988 Trust, et al. v. Bayfield County
649 F.3D 799 (7th Cir. 2011). Prevailed before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on behalf of private property owners who faced the prospect of a local government putting an ATV/snowmobile trail through the middle of their residences in northern Wisconsin, all without compensation. The case involved an abandoned railroad line which had its tracks removed in 1979, and after which private property owners purchased and built upon that land.