[Posted August 22, 2012] I have several items to report on, so let’s gather them and post all at once.

Upcoming appellate CLE
‘Tis the season for CLE programming, to meet the needs of lawyers, those notorious procrastinators. Several such programs will focus on appellate advocacy:

On September 7 in Abingdon, my pals Jeff Summers and John Rasmussen will present a program that focuses on “properly pleading negligence in the wake of AES Corporation v. Steadfast Insurance Co., stacking UM/UIM insurance coverage, federal jurisdiction, preservation of error during trial, and appeals in the state and federal systems.” Both of these guys know what they’re talking about, and the topics are likely to be of significant value to trial and appellate lawyers. Jeff and John will repeat the program on October 5 in Cape Charles, and October 19 in Grundy. (I commend them for setting up live CLE programs in under-served areas of the Commonwealth.) The program costs $80, but that’s quite inexpensive for four hours of credit. For more details, contact Jeff at

The VADA will produce two appellate programs at its annual meeting in Hot Springs. On October 11, the audience will get to spend half an hour with a Supreme Court justice, chatting about the appellate process and a jurist’s thinking. Right after that, there’s a panel discussion in which four appellate lawyers address modern trends in the appeals courts, specifically with an eye toward how that affects trial lawyers’ practices. You need to be registered for the annual meeting to attend, and you might even need to be a VADA member to sign up (though I’m not sure about that last part).

Virginia CLE will again offer its appellate practice all-day program. This one will be October 17 in Richmond. This program hasn’t been offered since the spring of 2009, so if you handle appeals (or you’d like to), this gives you a comprehensive look at the process, with tips from insiders, appellate advocates, and appellate jurists. Remember that Virginia CLE always puts together first-class instruction.

Finally, for those of you willing to travel for some advanced-level instruction, click on this link for information about the Appellate Judges Education Institute’s Appellate Summit in New Orleans. The program takes place November 15-18, so it’s too late for the normal CLE deadline in Virginia. Still, it’s an outstanding program that’s well worth your while if you handle a lot of appeals. It provides an excellent opportunity to interact with appellate practitioners from across the country, to exchange ideas. I also understand that there’s some decent food in New Orleans.

One last point: Remember that this is the first year with a minimum requirement for attendance at live CLE programs. You can’t just spend the last couple of days of October at your desk, staring at recorded online programs, in order to sneak your 12 hours in under the wire.

CAV opinion on motorcycle helmets
The Court of Appeals of Virginia hands down a single opinion on a slew of defective-motorcycle-helmet convictions. The case is published as Bennett v. Commonwealth; Judge Humphreys writes the unanimous opinion.

The overriding (sorry) issue is whether testimony that the several bikers’ helmets were not marked as compliant with any of three safety standards, is sufficient to convict beyond a reasonable doubt. For most of the appellants, the decision arrives on a happy day; the Commonwealth conceded error, essentially inviting the judges to reverse convictions. Two of the convictions stick, though, because in those cases, the trial court had more to go on than the bare testimony that the helmets weren’t marked as compliant.

There’s an interesting procedural anomaly on three of the appealed convictions. When the Commonwealth concedes error, that’s an invitation to the court to go ahead and give the appellant a free win. But concessions of law aren’t binding upon an appellate court, which still must review the record and the law to ascertain whether the trial court erred. In these three cases, the court rejects the concession and affirms anyway. That’s emphatically something you don’t see every day.

History in Billsburg
As I reported here earlier, the Supreme Court will convene writ panels in Bristol and Williamsburg next Thursday, August 30. The one in Williamsburg will meet at the Law School at William and Mary, the first time the court has met there. I’ll get a ringside seat, as I have one of the cases that will be argued that day.

One fringe benefit of being in Billsburg around lunchtime is that I get to go to The College Delly to get a sub. I was introduced to that place back in 1977 by my girlfriend, a beautiful W&M coed. I discovered that they make the finest subs in the Commonwealth. The girl wisely dumped me a long, long time ago, but I keep going back for the subs.

Application deadline for CJA Appellate Panels
The Fourth Circuit is accepting applications for membership on its appellate panels through September 4. There are two panels: one handles regular criminal appeals, and the other handles capital appeals. (As you can imagine, the former gets lots more business than does the latter.) The court’s website has more details.

You’re never going to get rich handling court-appointed cases, but if you want some valuable experience that you can’t purchase at Wal-Mart (or even Saks Fifth Avenue), this is an excellent way to get it.