A generation ago, it was accepted wisdom that the lawyer who tried a case should be the one to prosecute or defend any appeal arising from the judgment. Robinson+Cole, in the vanguard of law firms in this area, recognized that the successful handling of an appeal calls for a different skill set than that wielded by the average trial lawyer.
For more than 40 years, the Robinson+Cole roster has included specially trained lawyers in the art of appellate advocacy who are not only fluent in the appellate rules but also highly skilled in the critical tasks of issue identification, issue preservation, strategic positioning, and persuasive argument. Our lawyers understand how to best craft and present legal issues to appellate jurists—and have spent decades sharpening their talents.
Members of our group have been involved in successful appeals in the U.S. Supreme Court as well as the highest courts in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Virginia. Robinson+Cole’s Appellate Group was named Connecticut's premiere appellate group by the Connecticut Law Tribune in 2014.
The lawyers in Robinson+Cole’s Appellate Group, most of whom are former appellate law clerks, regularly handle appeals in both the state and federal courts. In addition to the group’s long history of successes in the Connecticut appellate courts, our appellate lawyers have handled multiple appeals in New York, New Jersey, and throughout New England, as well as in other state courts (including Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi) and in 12 of the 13 federal circuit courts of appeal.
The appellate know-how of our group frequently takes us to other fora, where our skills in persuasive briefing and strong oral advocacy are equally applicable in different closed-record proceedings, such as administrative agency appeals (both state and federal), arbitration appeals, ERISA appeals, and bankruptcy appeals.
Working on a team comes easily to Appellate Group members, who are often asked to collaborate before an appeal is docketed, sometimes before an appeal is even contemplated. Our lawyers routinely become involved in a case months or years before a judgment has been entered. An appellate lawyer’s background and know-how can be indispensable in pretrial motion practice and as a trial progresses, especially when it comes to strategic planning and issue preservation. As part of a litigation team, an appellate lawyer can assist trial counsel in identifying (and often correcting) potential problems before the trial concludes. Moreover, an appellate lawyer can provide an invaluable skill set by helping draft dispositive motions, pre- and post-trial briefs, jury instructions, and post judgment motions.
These same skills are also useful in cases where an appellate lawyer is needed to collaborate on—rather than fully manage—a newly filed appeal. Every appeal is different; sometimes it is best to keep the participation of an appellate attorney discreet. The members of our Appellate Group are adept team players and continually strive to find the ideal way to achieve the best result in every given situation.
Amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) briefs are filed by a person or group who has a strong interest in the outcome of the subject matter of a pending lawsuit even though not themselves a party. Amicus briefs serve multiple purposes, including to address policy issues, provide a sympathetic viewpoint, supplement/bolster a party's brief, or provide historical perspective or technical assistance. Members of Robinson+Cole's Appellate Group regularly represent amici curiae on issues of first impression or that may have broad application in significant industry areas. The input of industry leaders on such issues cannot be overstated; judges who decide these important issues often actively seek guidance from those who intimately know the specific area. Our group’s members understand how to objectively, persuasively, and succinctly present critical information to the courts.
The Appellate Group has six core members, each with substantial appellate experience:
Linda L. Morkan, the Group’s chair, is the first Connecticut woman inducted into the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers and has been involved in more than 200 appeals, including in the United States Supreme Court. Ms. Morkan has been named as one of The Best Lawyers in America© in the area of Appellate Law since 2008 and has been included in the Top 25 Connecticut Women Super Lawyers since 2006.
Wystan M. Ackerman has a national appellate practice focusing on insurance coverage and class actions, regularly representing insurers and national insurance industry associations (as amicus curiae) on critical insurance coverage issues. He has been involved in more than 40 insurance-related appeals, including recently successfully arguing the first Hurricane Sandy-related insurance coverage case heard by the New Jersey Supreme Court and a case in the First Circuit establishing the law on critical issues of liability insurance coverage. Mr. Ackerman was successful in persuading the United States Supreme Court to accept certiorari in Standard Fire Ins. v. Knowles, 133 S. Ct. 1345 (2013), which resulted in a reversal in favor of our client’s interpretation of the Class Action Fairness Act.
Bradford S. Babbitt, co-chair of the firm's Litigation Group and a former appellate law clerk, has handled appeals in New York and in Connecticut, with a particular emphasis on administrative appeals from regulatory rulings and other utility-related litigation. His experience in this area includes the Connecticut Supreme Court case that established the preemptive power of the Connecticut Siting Council over municipal zoning authorities.
Thomas J. Donlon is a former senior appellate counsel for the United States Coast Guard. While at Robinson+Cole, Mr. Donlon has handled over 30 appeals, not only in the Connecticut and New York state courts but also in the Second, Third, Ninth, and Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals. Among his many victories, Mr. Donlon won an appeal upholding the largest condemnation award, for over $125 million plus interest, against the State of New York.
Stephen E. Goldman, the firm’s managing partner, has served as counsel for insurers in many significant property insurance and class action cases, including Standard Fire v. Knowles, 133 S. Ct. 1345 (2013) (holding that the plaintiff's stipulation cannot defeat federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act) and Travco v. Ward, 736 S.E.2d 321 (Va. 2012) (affirming the trial court's judgment that property insurance policies do not cover losses caused by the presence of Chinese drywall).
Jeffrey J. White, a former clerk to Connecticut Supreme Court Chief Justice Ellen Ash Peters, has been involved in over 50 appeals, including a successful argument before the Connecticut Supreme Court in an antitrust case arising out of a proposed $1 billion waterfront project. Mr. White has argued before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the state appellate courts in Connecticut, New York. and Maryland.
In addition, the Robinson+Cole Appellate Group includes several supporting lawyers, including many recent appellate law clerks.
Secured reversal and remand of Bankruptcy Court’s refusal to allow a plaintiff to open the debtors’ Chapter 11 cases and modify the discharge injunction. HDR Architecture P.C. v. Maguire Group Holdings, 523 B.R. 879 (2014), appeal withdrawn, docket no. 15-10324 (11th Cir. 2015).
Obtained reversal of a trial court’s refusal to enforce terms of several promissory notes and award of damages to defaulting defendant and succeeded on issue of first impression regarding who has standing to raise an Unfair Trade Practices Act claim against a lender. Channing Real Estate v. Gates, 326 Conn. 123 (2017).
Represented a Connecticut employer concerning the extent to which the Connecticut Constitution's Declaration of Rights protects employees' free speech rights in the workplace. Trusz v. UBS Realty investors, 319 Conn. 175 (2015).
Successfully defended defense verdict in a multimillion-dollar lease termination case. DiNardo Seaside Tower v. Sikorsky Aircraft, 153 Conn. App. 10, cert. denied, 314 Conn. 947 (2014).
Reversed trial court judgment in favor of a defendant where court improperly relied on the doctrine of frustration of purpose. DDS Wireless International Inc. v. Nutmeg Leasing, Inc., 145 Conn. App. 520 (2013).
Successfully defended a trial court’s foreclosure judgment in favor of a lender against the claims of a church. Silicon Valley Bank v. Miracle Faith World Outreach, Inc., 140 Conn. App. 827, cert. denied, 308 Conn. 930 ( 2013).
Secured affirmance of summary judgment for an employer in a wrongful termination dispute. Callender v. Reflexite, 143 Conn. App. 351, cert. denied, 310 Conn. 905 (2013).
Summary judgment affirmed for a defendant employee on a claim under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 U.S.C.S. § 1030, as the employer failed to present sufficient, specific evidence regarding what data, if any, fell outside the scope of the defendant’s authorized access at the time he downloaded it. Amphenol v. Paul, 591 Fed. Appx. 34 (2015).
Dismissal of plaintiff's motion to confirm an arbitration award was reversed as defendants' motion to dismiss was improperly treated as if it implicated the trial court's subject matter jurisdiction. Directory Assistants Inc. v. Big Country Vein, L.P., 134 Conn. App. 418 (2012).
Defended a parish and diocese of the Episcopal Church against claims asserted by a former parishioner that he was abused by a member of the clergy in 1977. Successfully obtained dismissal of claims based in vicarious liability. Later won summary judgment on claims sounding in negligent hiring, supervision, retention, and breach of fiduciary duty based on the absence of knowledge of a propensity to abuse by the leadership of the parish and the diocese before the time of the abuse. Successfully defended that judgment at the Connecticut Appellate Court. Gough v. St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 143 Conn. App. 719 (2013).
Successfully represented a group of national and international insurance companies in appeal proceedings that stemmed from the issuance of a multimillion-dollar arbitration award that arose out of an insurance loss that occurred at a coal-fired electrical generating facility. The appellate process was conducted in two different phases and was litigated in both the Connecticut Appellate and Supreme Courts and at the U.S. Supreme Court. Ultimately, the Connecticut Appellate Court affirmed the trial court's granting of a motion to confirm the arbitration award in our clients' favor. Furthermore, the Appellate Court affirmed the awarding of pre and postjudgment interest, which resulted in the payment of a judgment of over $6.5 million. Hartford Steam Boiler v. Underwriter's at Lloyds, 121 Conn. App. 31 (2010), cert. denied, 297 Conn. 918 (2010).
Obtained reinstatement of multimillion-dollar liquidated damages award in favor of a contractor against the Connecticut Department of Transportation. White Oak Corp. v. DOT, 319 Conn. 582 (2015).
Defended trial court's holding that, in light of the express terms of the parties' contract, the Town of Southington's election to terminate the contract for convenience did not preclude it from recovering liquidated damages against the contractor because that right arose as soon as the substantial completion date passed and continued to accrue until the termination of the contract. Old Colony Constr. LLC v. Town of Southington, 316 Conn. 202 (2015).
Won decision in an eminent domain proceeding versus the State of New York upholding the largest condemnation award in New York history, totaling $125 million. Robinson+Cole also represented the client, a real estate investment trust in the New York City metropolitan area, in an appeal before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, Second Department, of the State of New York, which issued a unanimous decision and order in affirming the judgment of the Court of Claims in June 2010. The Appellate Division ordered the state to pay the original award plus interest, bringing the total award to approximately $160 million. Gyrodyne Company of America v. State of New York, 89 A.D.3d 988 (2011).
Successfully represented owners of a 77-acre parcel in an appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court that arose out of the condemnation of that parcel by a municipality. The taking spawned two proceedings: In the first, the property owners challenged the municipality's valuation of the property. In the second, the jury found that the municipality had taken the property in bad faith in violation of the Fifth Amendment and awarded the property owners additional monies that represented the loss of an option contract. On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the finding that the property was worth $4.6 million as well as the jury's verdict that the municipality acted in bad faith by taking the property. The Court also upheld our clients' cross-appeal, agreeing that they should have been awarded all of their attorneys’ fees. Branford v. Santa Barbara, 294 Conn. 785 (2010); Branford v. Santa Barbara, 294 Conn. 803 (2010); New England Estates, LLC v. Branford, 294 Conn. 817 (2010).
In a series of cases of first impression under the state wetlands statute, defined the limited scope of statutory exceptions, established the authority of courts to protect and restore wetlands with injunctions, as well as the right of private parties to recover attorneys fees. Red 11 LLC v. Conservation Commission, 117 Conn. App. 630, cert. denied, 294 Conn. 918 (2009); Conservation Commission v. Red 11 LLC, 119 Conn. App. 377, cert. denied, 295 Conn. 924 (2010); Conservation Commission v. Red 11 LLC, 135 Conn. App. (2012).
Obtained reversal of summary judgment against landowners to declare certain restrictive covenants null and void because, contrary to the trial court's conclusions, the covenants at issue were not void as a matter of law, and questions of material fact existed as to whether the defendants were entitled to enforce them. Wykeham Rise v. Federer, 305 Conn. 448 (2012).
Representation of the owner of a rare, undeveloped peninsular building lot on Long Island Sound in an administrative appeal from the town's denial of a zoning permit. Persuaded the trial court to reverse the town's denial and to order the town to grant all permits necessary to construct our client's home on the property. Successfully defeated a petition for certification to the Connecticut Appellate Court. Kleinknecht v. Stonington ZBA, 2010 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3347 (Dec. 16, 2010) (denial of petition for certification not published).
Recognizing for the first time a private right of action under the state wetlands statute. Windels v. Environmental Protection Comm’n, 284 Conn. 268 (2007).
Second Circuit affirmed dismissal of plaintiff’s ERISA claim that the defendants failed to timely provide her copies of plan documents. Brown v. Rawlings Financial Servs. LLC, 868 F.2d 126 (2017).
Secured affirmance of grant of summary judgment on the question of whether designee of the state Department of Social Services could compel reimbursement of medical costs from Medicaid recipients after recovery from a liable third party. Rathbun v. Health Net, 315 Conn. 674 (2015).
The Second Circuit affirmed grant of summary judgment to a life and disability insurer where the policy unambiguously limited residual disability benefits. Frank v. Reassure Life Ins. Co., 548 Fed. Appx. 706 (2013).
Affirming trial court’s ruling that the defendant insurer did not violate the prohibition against "unfair discrimination" in Conn. Gen. Stat. § 38a-816(10) in paying reimbursement to practitioners of the healing arts by paying podiatrists less than medical doctors for the same services. Connecticut Podiatric Medical Assn v. Health Net, 302 Conn. 464 (2011).
For more information on Robinson+Cole's Insurance Appeals group description, click here.
Successfully defended trustees against a claim by a future trust beneficiary that they were misapplying the terms of the multimillion-dollar trust and distributing income incorrectly. Heisinger v. Dillon, 168 Conn. App. 467, cert. denied, 323 Conn. 940 (2016); companion case: In re Probate Appeal of Heisinger, 168 Conn. App. 467, cert. denied, 323 Conn. 941 (2016).
Defeated attempts by antinuclear activists to prevent the installation of a dry storage system for spent nuclear fuel. Representation included multiple evidentiary hearings on a motion for stay, pending an administrative appeal; evidentiary hearings regarding alleged bias by members of the reviewing administrative agency; and a motion to dismiss on federal preemption grounds. Prevailed on each issue at every level. The Connecticut Supreme Court adopted our analysis of the preemption issue in a case of first impression in the state. Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone v. Connecticut Siting Council, 286 Conn. 57 (2008).
Persuaded trial court to dismiss appeal for lack of standing where appellant challenged the Connecticut Siting Council authorization to build and operate a telecommunications facility in northwest Connecticut; successfully defended that decision and numerous other issues raised on appeal at the Connecticut Appellate Court and the Connecticut Supreme Court.
Obtained favorable judgments on appeal at the United States Courts of Appeal for the Second and Federal Circuits in several patent and trademark infringement cases.
Obtained reversal at the Connecticut Supreme Court for a $4.5 million jury award for loss-of-consortium entered in a medical malpractice action.
Obtained reversal at the Connecticut Supreme Court in a case involving personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state insurer.
Obtained reversal of a felony murder conviction at the Connecticut Supreme Court based on a claim that certain forensic DNA evidence violated the defendant’s constitutional right to confrontation
Obtained reversal of a murder conviction at the Connecticut Supreme Court based on a claim that the defendant was deprived of his constitutional right to counsel at trial.
Obtained reversal of a “fighting words” conviction at the Connecticut Supreme Court based on a claim that the conviction violated the defendant’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech.