High court OKs appointed appellate panel

By Alan Cooper, Virginia Lawyers Weekly – March 5, 2007

The Supreme Court of Virginia has approved the creation of a panel of attorneys who are willing to accept appointments in which an indigent, unrepresented party is awarded a civil appeal.

Supreme Court Clerk Patricia L. Harrington and L. Steven Emmert, chairman of the appellate practice subcommittee of the Virginia State Bar, are coordinating the program.

They hope to develop a panel of at least 12 practitioners with substantial experience and a second panel of less experienced attorneys who would agree to assist a more experienced attorney on an appeal.

Harrington said the court typically has three or four such cases a year and wants to create a panel large enough that an attorney would not be tapped for help more than once every three years.

Under the program, the court would notify Harrington when it believes it would be beneficial to have a lawyer represent an indigent, pro se party.

She would ask the party whether he is willing to accept representation, and if he is, contact an attorney from each panel to see if they are willing to accept the case.

Emmert said the arrangement enables the attorneys to share the workload, provides two different perspectives and gives the less experienced attorney an opportunity to work with a more experienced lawyer in an area with which he might not be familiar.

Attorneys interested in being on either panel may contact Harrington at mailto:scvclers@courts.state.va.us or Emmert at emmert@virginia-appeals.com .

Harrington said the court also is looking to establish a panel of lawyers who would be willing to accept the representation of indigent criminal defendants when the attorneys who represented them before the Virginia Court of Appeals are unable to continue the representation to the Supreme Court.

She said gaps in such representation usually happen at least a dozen times a year.