NOTE ON RECENT APPELLATE DEVELOPMENTS
(OR LACK THEREOF)
(Posted October 1, 2019) There’s a reason behind that uncomfortable lull in VANA postings. The Supreme Court of Virginia has been largely silent since the late-August flurry of opinions. The flame isn’t burning brightly because there’s no fuel for it; the court decided all but one of its pending appeals before Justice McClanahan’s departure and Justice Chafin’s investiture. It’ll be another few weeks before the September decisions are ready for release. But we still have some developments to explore.
Slim September docket
The Supreme Court heard oral argument in just 15 appeals in the September session, three weeks ago. In years past, September’s argument docket was typically the largest of the year, as more appeals matured over the long three-month interval between the June and September sessions.
But the justices have been handing out writs with tweezers recently, so there are fewer appeals to argue on the merits. As I’ve explained previously, that’s partly because of a decline in appellate business – new filings are down roughly 40% in the past 15-18 years – and partly because of a conscious decision by the court to grant fewer writs. An appellee’s advantage has never been greater in the almost 15 years that I’ve been covering the court.
New David-Goliath Index
With the third quarter in the books, it’s time to update our periodic review of how the appellate Big Guys are faring against their smaller cousins in published opinions. This quarter generated unprecedented success for David, at least in the time that I’ve been reporting the Index. The Supreme Court decided 15 appeals with an identifiable Big-Guy-vs.-Little-Guy dynamic, and David won seven of those, losing eight.
The year’s total is thus 10 wins for David and 26 for Goliath, for a D-GI of 28/72. David is still getting his clock cleaned overall, but the most recent results are more encouraging for that side of the litigation aisle.
ABA Summit draws nigh
I’ve reported before on the coming ABA Appellate Summit in Washington, November 14-17. It’s the best nationwide gathering of appellate jurists and lawyers. You can still register here, but from what I know – I’m on the event planning committee – registrations are far ahead of previous paces, so you should sign up quickly to avoid being shut out. There’s a real chance that we’ll hit the host venue’s capacity.
Really, if you’re serious about your appellate career, you owe it to yourself to attend one of these. Next year’s summit will be in Austin, Texas, which is much farther away, not to mention its being in a foreign country.
New Judicial Learning Center
This story came as a pleasant surprise – the Supreme Court announced last month the founding of the Judicial Learning Center, housed at the court itself. According to the court’s press release, the center’s exhibits “provide an overview of Virginia’s judicial system, the rich history of Virginia’s judiciary, and its contributions to the development of America’s legal system.”
One interesting feature of the center is “an interactive portrait collection of the Justices of the Supreme Court of Virginia.” If you’ve ever wondered who all those jurists in the old portraits are, glowering down at you from the walls of the courtroom as you argue, this is your chance to put a name with a face. You can sign up for guided tours by contacting the State Law Library (804-786-2075).