(Posted January 18, 2024) Here’s a quick report on some developments in the world of appeals.


A published opinion, sort of

The Supreme Court of Virginia hands down one published ruling today. In Fary v. Commonwealth, the justices summarily affirm an en banc decision of the Court of Appeals in a criminal case. Instead of writing a new opinion, the SCV merely affirms for the reasons set out in the CAV’s published opinion. It’s a sufficiency challenge in a prosecution for attempted malicious wounding, brought against the operator of a boat that rammed another vessel. Spoiler alert: The court rules that first impact may or may not have been inadvertent; but when the defendant backed up and charged again, well …

Today’s ruling comes down in lightning fashion, as the parties argued the case just eight days ago. My best guess is that the decision conference after oral argument was short and sweet, with one justice opining, “I think the Court of Appeals got it exactly right,” followed by six head nods.


A promising sign

The SCV’s February/March session schedule isn’t out yet, but I got an advance copy of the potential argument docket because I have an appeal on it. (The clerk sends out an advance notice to lawyers who may be on a given docket, to check for schedule conflicts.) I was delighted to find 13 cases listed. It’s possible that not all 13 will make the ultimate session schedule, but this is a promising sign; the last time the court heard more than eight appeals in a session was November 2022.


No news may be good news …

The silly season is upon us, as the General Assembly is in session. I decided to check the wonderful Legislative Information System website to see what bills are in the hopper that might affect the appellate courts here. To my surprise, I found nothing; just eleven bills relating to courts of record, and the thumbnail descriptions don’t show a single reference to the appellate courts. This assures us of a fair degree of predictability in the coming year.

There will, of course, be at least one legislative act in this session that affects our world, as the General Assembly will choose the newest member of the Court of Appeals. The successful candidate must achieve a majority vote of each of the two chambers. Because Democrats now control both, I don’t expect a major fight, other than possibly a geographic one. The Tidewater delegation may want another jurist from this corner of the Commonwealth to take Senior Judge Humphreys’s seat, while the larger Northern Virginia delegation might argue for greater representation on the court. As usual, I have no more insight on that than I have on quantum mechanics or the literature of Kyrgyzstan. Let’s just wait and see.