A review of Federal Appellate Procedure Manual, by Alex Kozinski & John K. Rabiej

FAPM cover

Alex Kozinski, the colorful Ninth Circuit judge, has co-authored a new book for appeals weenies, the Federal Appellate Procedure Manual (Juris 2014). His co-author is John K. Rabiej, the longtime head staffer to the federal rules committees.

Inside FAPM you’ll find three sections:

  1. a 50-page mini-primer on jurisdiction, briskly covering topics like standards of review, the final-decision rule, and interlocutory appeals;
  2. 150 pages on the FRAP rules — this is the heart of the book — and
  3. 18 pages of forms and tables.

When I first got it, I thought, “Neat book. But who’s it for?” If you want to know what a FRAP rule says, just read the rule; if you want to know how its been interpreted, read the cases. FAPM sprinkles in some case-cite footnotes, but it is nothing like a treatise. I never bother reading headnotes or syllabi, and I thought FAPM might be the same flavor of useless.

But then it saved my butt.

See, I’ve always been too focused on substance lazy to get clear on how Rule 26‘s deadline-computing works. You get three extra days, but sometimes you don’t … it’s easy to grasp when you focus on it, but I never had. Anyway, in my case, the court gave me an extension until December 1, and I was thinking I had until December 4. Then on November 29, I read FAPM’s blurb on Rule 26, which said, “The Rule does not apply to a date certain fixed by the court in an order to act, e.g., file no later than February 1.”

(1)  “Oh, crap.”

(2) “Maybe this book is more useful than I thought.”

Now, maybe you’re reading this thinking, “huh, I had no idea Stiegler was that ignorant.” Fair enough. But, see, that just happened to be my blindspot — you may have blindspots of your own. A short little book like this can help you spot them. If it saves your tuckus just once, it pays for itself.

fapm inside

Click to enlarge.

In the end, that’s where I come down on FAPM. It’s not the most useful book on my shelf. I wish it had better coverage beyond FRAP on nuts-and-bolts things that matter to appellate practitioners, like how panels are composed or what staff counsel does. (It does discuss a few potential rules changes the committee has discussed and compares circuit practice in a few areas.) You’d be nuts to buy it instead of the Third Circuit Bar Association’s PBI’s indispensable Third Circuit Appellate Practice Manual [see Peter Goldberger’s comment below], or Mayer Brown’s pricier Federal Appellate Practice.

But it saved my butt, and it might save yours.


If you want to buy a copy, you can get it from the publisher with free shipping at this link, and the coupon code FAPM25 gets you 25% off the $95 list price.

Disclosure: I have no ties to the authors or the publisher. I got the book free from the publisher — they asked me to do a review and to include their link.



2 thoughts on “A review of Federal Appellate Procedure Manual, by Alex Kozinski & John K. Rabiej

  1. Peter Goldberger

    I agree that the Third Circuit Appellate Practice Manual is “indispensible,” but I don’t think it’s accurate to say it is authored or published by the Third Circuit Bar Association (“3CBA”), which I currently serve as President. The principal editors of the Manual are Nancy Winkelman (Schnader firm) and James Martin (Reed Smith), who were the founders of the 3CBA, but the Manual is published (and the copyright held) by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. (Its most recent revision is 2010.) Your link correctly directs to PBI. Also indispensible, however, if I may say so, is the 3CBA’s 42-page “Third Circuit Practice Guide,” most recently revised in May 2014. (Unfortunately, I just noticed that it is the 2012 edition that is linked from the 3CBA website. We’ll get that fixed right away!). On page 12 of the Practice Guide, it says, “Because deadlines for the appellee’s brief and the reply brief are measured from ‘service” of the preceding brief, 3 days are added to the stated time period unless service was made by hand-delivery. Note that electronic service with ECF filing is not treated as hand-delivery for this purpose. Fed.R.App.P. 26(c).” (The same advice appears on page 11 of the 2012 edition.) Readers of your blog should join the 3CBA! Our Practice Guide, however, is distributed electronically for free to anyone who wants it.

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