Mr. Sturgess served as Staff Attorney at the First DCA for over three years. He eventually served as the Senior Staff Attorney, including one year as Senior Staff Attorney to then Chief Judge Douglas B. Shivers. He was a member of the Appellate Court Rules Committee, and also as a member of the Executive Council of the Appellate Practice Section. Mr. Sturgess was also Chairman of the Civil Practice Committee of the Section for three years. He is an original co-author of the “Appellate Self-Represented Handbook” available on the Florida Supreme Court website.
The First DCA is different from all other district courts of appeal in Florida. The three-judge panels allowed the staff attorney assigned to the case to attend the judges’ conference to decide the case. The Staff Attorney was often required to answer questions regarding the case. Most important, Mr. Sturgess spent years attending the conferences in which the appellate judges discussed and argued the cases among themselves. No other appellate court in Florida has ever allowed such access to the judges’ own process of assessment, such as attendance at these private disposition conferences.
The First District Court of Appeal (“First DCA”) no longer has an in-house mediation program. Mediation in the First DCA is now by motion of a party. Mr. Sturgess can advise regarding the motion, time frames, mediator referral, tolling, and any other questions free of charge.
Mr. Sturgess is also available for support on appeal. He is hired for everything from;
(i) attending an entire trial to assure appealable issues are preserved and not invited to
(ii) merely reviewing a brief before submission to the appellate court for an ‘extra pair of eyes’ assessment. By the time a case reaches the appellate level, the trial attorneys may be so familiar with the facts and issues that it is nearly impossible to approach the case from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about the case. When an appellate judge or staff attorney picks up your brief, he or she knows nothing about your case.
An attorney with significant appellate experience can advise you regarding how the brief appears to the court, and how it might be presented in a more informative, clear or simple way. One of the appellate judges for whom Mr. Sturgess worked put it this way, “Practicing law in appellate courts is like singing in the shower. Everybody thinks they’re good at it and know the words, but most people aren’t, and there’s usually nobody around to tell them.” An experienced, objective appellate attorney’s advice or opinion may be the best money spent during the entire litigation.