[Posted July 23, 2013] By tradition, the Supreme Court of Virginia sits outside the capital city only once per year, during summer writ panels. In past years, that happened during the mid-July panel days, but starting last year, those meeting dates vanished from the calendar. That might have something to do with the dwindling docket, something I’ve written about recently. The July writ panels are, at least for now, a thing of the past.


But the court’s remote writ-panel sessions, known informally as “the road shows,” are still with us; they’ve just been shifted to late August. Next month, the justices will meet in three cities – Leesburg and Lexington, in addition to Richmond – to entertain arguments from aggrieved appellants on why their cases should receive the rare, precious writ.


The date for the panel sessions is Wednesday, August 28. I don’t have specific site information right now, but as for Lexington, I have a scientific wild guess that it will be somewhere on the campus of the Washington & Lee School of Law. Last year, the court convened one panel in Williamsburg, and that panel met at Marshall-Wythe.


You can and should attend these panels if you want to improve your appellate skills, even if you don’t have an appeal on the docket. Writ arguments are short – just ten minutes per case – and you’ll get to see a cross-section of advocacy, ranging from those lawyers with little appellate experience to seasoned advocates who know the best way to make a petition stand out. If you stay for just two hours, you can see a dozen or more separate arguments; you’ll get a sense of which approaches work in appellate courts, and which ones don’t.


How do the justices decide which cases to calendar for each location? Well, in a sense, they don’t make that decision; the Chief Staff Attorney’s office coordinates the writ-panel arguments. But that office has traditionally set a given argument for the location that’s closest to the office of the appellant’s primary counsel. One of the purposes of the road shows, in addition to allowing the justices to roam the Commonwealth, is to make travel easier for the lawyers who file petitions.


My best guess is that I’ll have at least two petitions on the August docket, and I’ll probably be sent to Richmond. If you’re in Northern Virginia or the Shenandoah Valley, here’s a rare chance to see appellate practice up-close, right in your neighborhood.