Reports Legal Elite

Appellate Law

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George A. Somerville

Harman Claytor Corrigan & Wellman

Other legal specialties: Trials, water resources and local government law
Birthplace: Parkersburg, W.Va.
Education:  Bachelor’s degree, West Virginia University; law degree, University of Virginia School of Law.
Spouse:  Elizabeth (“Betsy”) Somerville
Children:  Sons Chris, Tom, David and Stephen Somerville; stepdaughters Amanda Thomas and Stephanie Sale; grandchildren Caleb Thomas, Virginia and Elanor Somerville, and another on the way!
Hobbies or pastimes: Running, theater and concerts (mostly jambands, folk and blues).
First job as a lawyer: Law clerk to Ruggero J. Aldisert, U.S. circuit judge
Fan of: The West Virginia Mountaineers and the Washington Redskins.
Favorite vacation spot: New York City
Recently read book: “Finding Darwin’s God” by Kenneth R. Miller
Career mentors:  Judge Aldisert, John F. “Jack” Kay Jr., James C. Roberts

How is appellate law different from other legal specialties?
Trial practice is more personal; appellate practice is more cerebral.  Appellate oral arguments are limited; brief-writing requires hours of working with the record and in the library (or its digital equivalent).  The briefs are the most important component of appeals.  The focus of trial practice is leading the jury or judge to see the facts in a particular way.  The focus of appellate practice is the law, and the record is fixed at the trial. 

What has been your most memorable case?
It is difficult to identify a single “most memorable” case.  If forced to the choice, however, I would select the Episcopal Church property litigation (The Falls Church v. Protestant Episcopal Church). I was a member of a great team of lawyers; the issues were both legal (common law and constitutional law) and factual (more than two centuries of church history); and there were really excellent lawyers on both sides of the case, making it all the more interesting and challenging.

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