Appellate Law in Florida

Board Certified in Appellate Practice

Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and EducationRule 6-13.1 provides that "[a] lawyer who is a member in good standing of The Florida Bar and meets the standards prescribed below may be issued an appropriate certificate identifying the lawyer as 'Board Certified in Appellate Practice.' The purpose of the standards is to identify those lawyers who engage in appellate practice and have the special knowledge, skills, and proficiency, as well as the character, ethics, and reputation for professionalism, to be properly identified to the public as board certified in appellate practice."

 FInd a Lawyer in Florida Board Certified in Appellate Law.


Definitions for Appellate Practice Specialty Certification

Rule 6-13.2 defines terms related to appellate practice including:

(a) Appellate Practice.

"Appellate practice" is the practice of law dealing with the recognition and preservation of error committed by lower tribunals, and the presentation of argument concerning the presence or absence of such error to state or federal appellate courts through brief writing, writ and motion practice, and oral argument. Appellate practice includes evaluation and consultation regarding potential appellate issues or remedies in connection with proceedings in the lower tribunal prior to the initiation of the appellate process.

(b) Appellate Action.

"Appellate action" means an action filed in a state court, a federal district court, a United States court of appeals, or the Supreme Court of the United States seeking review of a decision of a lower tribunal.

(1) Timing of Appellate Actions. Appellate actions in which the applicant filed a principal brief, response or petition as defined in Rule 6-13.2(b), (f) or (g) before the application deadline will be counted as appellate actions regardless of whether the action is settled, dismissed or proceeds to decision on the merits. If the filing date falls outside the time frame for the current filing period, the appellate action will not count towards the required total.

(2) Supreme Court Briefs. A brief on the merits following an acceptance of jurisdiction in the United States Supreme Court may be considered as a separate appellate action.

(3) Consolidated Proceedings. Appellate proceedings with different case numbers that are consolidated by the court will not be considered separate appellate actions for any purposes for which they have been consolidated.


(c) Practice of Law.

The "practice of law" for this area is defined in rule 6-3.5(c)(1).

(d) Appellate Practice Certification Committee.

The appellate practice certification committee may include 1 member presently serving as an appellate court judge from a Florida district court of appeal, the Supreme Court of Florida, a United States court of appeals, or the Supreme Court of the United States. Certification in appellate practice is preferred, but is not a requirement. Appointment otherwise will be consistent with rule 6-3.2.

(e) Primary Responsibility.

Having “primary responsibility" for writing and filing a brief, petition, or response means having the most substantial and direct participation of all the lawyers contributing to that task.

Only 1 lawyer may claim primary responsibility for that task. Where primary responsibility is used to meet a requirement, the applicant must specifically identify any other lawyer who provided substantial assistance with the task and demonstrate that the applicant’s level of participation was primary to the satisfaction of the appellate practice certification committee.

For the purposes of meeting the primary responsibility brief writing requirements under rule 6-13.3(b) or 6-13.4(b), credit for a brief, petition, or response that does not designate the applicant as an author may be considered if accompanied by a certification from at least 1 of the designated authors that the applicant had the most substantial and direct participation in the preparation of the brief.

(f) Principal Briefs in Appeals.

“Principal briefs in appeals” means the primary brief on the merits and excludes reply briefs (including reply briefs that also serve as answer briefs on cross-appeal), jurisdictional briefs, supplemental briefs, and amicus briefs.

For good cause shown, the appellate practice certification committee may treat a reply brief (including a reply brief that also serves as an answer brief on cross-appeal), jurisdictional brief, supplemental brief, or amicus brief as a principal brief for the purpose of these rules, if the brief is substantial and reflects a level of effort and preparation comparable to that required to produce a principal brief. For good cause shown, the committee may treat a combined answer brief and initial brief on cross-appeal as separate principal briefs if the brief reflects a level of effort and preparation comparable to that required to produce separate principal briefs.

(g) Petitions or Responses in Extraordinary Writ Cases.

“Petitions or responses in extraordinary writ cases” refer to a petition or response to a petition that seeks a writ from an appellate court to challenge a ruling or the jurisdiction of a lower tribunal or administrative agency. The term includes a petition or response to a petition for a writ of certiorari filed in the Supreme Court of the United States.

The term does not include any other petition or response to a petition that merely requests discretionary appellate review, such as a notice to invoke the discretionary jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Florida, or for permission to appeal to a United States Court of Appeals an order of a district court pursuant to, for example, 28 U.S.C. §1292(b) or Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f).

(h) Good Cause.

"Good cause” exceptions allow the appellate practice certification committee the discretion to waive technical compliance with the relevant requirement. The committee may allow certification or recertification of an individual where the applicant's proffered circumstances demonstrate that the applicant has, in the experience and judgment of the appellate practice certification committee, the special knowledge, skill, and proficiency, or the equivalent, the technical compliance that requirement is intended to demonstrate. The committee will consider a good cause exception only on specific request by the applicant.


Minimum Standards for Board Certified Attorneys in Appellate Practice

Rule 6-13.3 sets out the minimum standards for appelate practice including:

(a) Substantial Involvement.


The applicant must have been engaged in the practice of law for at least 5 years. During the 3-year period immediately preceding the date of application, at least 30 percent of the applicant's practice must have been spent in substantial and direct involvement in appellate practice sufficient to demonstrate special competence as an appellate lawyer.

For good cause shown, the appellate practice certification committee may waive up to 2 of the 3 years' substantial involvement for individuals who have served as appellate judges or as a clerk, career attorney, or staff attorney in an appellate court. Substantial involvement during the year immediately preceding the application will not be waived.


(b) Appellate Actions.


During the 5-year period immediately preceding application, the applicant must have had sole or primary responsibility in at least 25 appellate actions for the filing of principal briefs in appeals, or the filing of petitions or responses in extraordinary writ cases.


(c) Oral Arguments.


During the 5-year period immediately preceding application, the applicant must have presented at least 5 oral arguments to an appellate court. The oral arguments to an appellate court need not have been presented in the same cases listed on the application as appellate actions. The appellate practice certification committee may waive this requirement on good cause shown.


(d) Education.


During the 3-year period immediately preceding the filing of an application, the applicant must demonstrate completion of 45 credit hours of approved continuing legal education for appellate practice certification. Accreditation of educational hours is subject to policies established by the appellate practice certification committee or the board of legal specialization and education.


(e) Peer Review.

(1) The applicant must submit the names and addresses of at least 4 lawyers, who are neither relatives nor current associates or partners, as references to attest to the applicant's substantial involvement and competence in appellate practice, as well as the applicant's character, ethics, and reputation for professionalism. These lawyers must be involved in appellate practice and familiar with the applicant's practice.

(2) The applicant must submit the names and addresses of at least 2 judges before whom the applicant has appeared on appellate matters within the last 2 years to attest to the applicant's substantial involvement and competence in appellate practice, as well as the applicant's character, ethics, and reputation for professionalism.

(3) The appellate practice certification committee may send reference forms to other lawyers and judges.


(f) Examination.


Every applicant must pass an examination designed to demonstrate sufficient knowledge, proficiency and experience in appellate practice – including the recognition, preservation, and presentation of trial error, and knowledge and application of the rules of appellate procedure applicable to state and federal appellate practice in Florida – to justify the representation of special competence to the legal profession and public.

Recertification in Appellate Practice

Rule 6-13.4 sets out the rules for recerticiation in appellate practice including:

During the 5-year period immediately preceding application, an applicant must satisfy the following requirements for recertification:

(a) Substantial Involvement.


The applicant must demonstrate continuous and substantial involvement in the practice of law, of which at least 30 percent must have been spent in actual participation in appellate practice.


(b) Appellate Actions.


The applicant must have had sole or primary responsibility in at least 15 appellate actions for the filing of principal briefs in appeals, or the filing of petitions or responses thereto in extraordinary writ cases. For good cause, the appellate practice certification committee may waive this requirement for applicants who have been continuously certified for 14 or more years.


(c) Oral Arguments.


The applicant must have presented at least 5 oral arguments to an appellate court. The oral arguments to an appellate court need not have been presented in the same cases listed on the application as appellate actions. The appellate practice certification committee may waive this requirement on good cause shown.


(d) Education.


The applicant must demonstrate completion of at least 50 credit hours of approved continuing legal education for appellate practice certification. This requirement may be satisfied by the applicant's participation in at least 30 hours of continuing judicial education approved by the Supreme Court of Florida.


(e) Peer Review.


(1) The applicant must submit the names and addresses of at least 4 lawyers, who are neither relatives nor current associates or partners, as references to attest to the applicant's substantial involvement and competence in appellate practice, as well as the applicant's character, ethics, and reputation for professionalism. These lawyers must be involved in appellate practice and familiar with the applicant's practice.

(2) The applicant must submit the names and addresses of at least 2 judges before whom the applicant has appeared on appellate matters within the last 2 years to attest to the applicant's substantial involvement and competence in appellate practice, as well as the applicant's character, ethics, and reputation for professionalism.

(3) The appellate practice certification committee may send reference forms to other lawyers and judges.

(f) Judges.

(1) An applicant who is serving as an appellate court judge on a Florida district court of appeal, the Supreme Court of Florida, a United States court of appeals, or the United States Supreme Court, and who applies for recertification while serving as a judge of that court, will be deemed to have met the requirements of subdivisions (a)-(c) of this rule, and the appellate practice certification committee may waive compliance with the requirements of subdivision (e) of this rule, for good cause shown.

(2) For an applicant who is subject to the Code of Judicial Conduct and who performs or has performed judicial functions on a full-time basis during a substantial portion of the period since the last date of certification, the appellate practice certification committee may waive compliance with the requirements of subdivisions (a) - (c) and (e) of this rule, for good cause shown, provided the applicant has complied with all other requirements for recertification.


(g) Good Cause.


Subject to the requirements of rule 6-13.2(h), in determining good cause under this rule, the appellate practice certification committee will consider, if requested, the length of time the applicant has been certified, the applicant’s supervisory responsibility for appellate actions or oral arguments since the date of the last certification application, the nature and complexity of the applicant’s appellate actions since the last application for certification, the number of appellate actions in the applicant’s career, and any health, career, or other factors that may have limited the number of appellate actions or oral arguments since the date of the last application for certification.