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News | March 10, 2015
3 minute read

Warner Launches Appellate Practice Academy

Academy Welcomes Former Michigan Supreme Court Justices, Court of Appeals Judges as Faculty

Warner Norcross & Judd LLP has launched an Appellate Practice Academy to prepare attorneys for the uniquely difficult experience of arguing cases at the appellate level.

The academy, which is the first of its kind in the Upper Midwest, allows attorneys to practice arguments and receive feedback as they prepare to present cases to the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Court of Appeals, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and other appellate courts.  The Academy provides a renowned panel of experienced Warner Norcross appellate litigators, law professors and former judges and justices from the Michigan Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. 
“Warner has repeatedly distinguished itself as one of the region’s top appellate law firms,” said John J. Bursch, Appellate Practice Group co-chair.  “Our attorneys have argued in the U.S. Supreme Court and almost all the federal courts of appeals, as well as regularly appearing in the Michigan Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.  It was a natural next step to pair this experience with the insight of Michigan’s former appellate judges in the Appellate Practice Academy.
“The skills the Academy offers will prove invaluable to attorneys, who will be able to practice anticipating difficult questions, remaining flexible with points of emphasis and packing persuasive force into rapid-fire answers. Appellate work is substantially different from other types of litigation, and we feel the Appellate Practice Academy fulfills a need in our region.”
A video interview on the Appellate Practice Academy is available at
The Academy has already mooted or scheduled moots for approximately 20 percent of the Michigan Supreme Court’s arguments in the current term. 
Bursch has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court eight times and 18 times before the Michigan Supreme Court.  He will serve as an Appellate Practice Academy moot panelist, as will Matthew T. Nelson, who also co-chairs the firm’s Appellate Practice Group.  Nelson has successfully argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court and has successfully represented clients in several federal courts, the Michigan Supreme Court, the New Jersey Supreme Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Other panelists will include:

  • The Hon. Richard A. Bandstra, former Michigan Court of Appeals judge. Bandstra has also served as a member of the Michigan House of Representatives and as chief legal counsel to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. Bandstra has heard and decided thousands of cases during his 16-year career.
  • The Hon. Michael F. Cavanagh, who served 32 years as a justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, including several terms as chief justice.  During his time on Michigan’s highest court, he participated in more than 2,000 cases and wrote more than 550 opinions.  Including his eight years of service on the Michigan Court of Appeals, no one has served longer as a Michigan appellate judge.
  • The Hon. Alton T. Davis, who is a former Michigan Supreme Court Justice, Circuit Court chief judge and Michigan Court of Appeals judge. Altogether, he served on the bench for 27 years and decided thousands of cases.
  • Devin Schindler, professor at Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Schindler has argued before the Michigan Supreme Court and has litigated numerous constitutional issues at all levels of state and federal courts.
  • The Hon. William Whitbeck, who served nearly 17 years as a Michigan Court of Appeals judge, including six years as chief judge.  Additionally, he served in the administrations of three Michigan governors, as well as in leadership positions in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

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