Last year, I obtained from Betsy Paret, the Clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, a list of practice tips crafted by the Clerk’s Office for the benefit of practitioners. I had it printed up, and distributed it to the members of the Tidewater Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. (If anyone wants a copy of that list, let me know.)

Recently, I had occasion to meet with all three appellate court clerks here in Virginia, and asked each of them if they had (or would be willing to generate) such a list, for posting here. The first such list has arrived, courtesy the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Virginia. The tips here are not what you’d look for if you were starting from square one with your first appeal (I’ll have a future essay on that topic), but are worth remembering for appellate practitioners of any level of experience.

I am very grateful to the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Trish Harrington, and her Chief Deputy, Doug Robelen, for sending this list to me and for giving me their kind consent to post it here.


1. Don’t send a copy of your notice of appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia – the rules don’t require it and it creates more work for the clerk’s office.

2. When you draft your petition for appeal, be sure to include the name of the court from which the appeal is taken, the date of the order being appealed and, in appeals from the Court of Appeals, the record number in that court.

3. Make sure the certificate required by Rule 5:17(e) for the petition for appeal is accurate and contains all required information:

List the name of each appellant who is filing the instant petition for appeal (do not list as an appellant another party represented by separate counsel who is filing a separate petition for appeal – that person may be an appellee, but is not an appellant in the instant appeal) and counsel’s name, address, phone number;

list the name of each appellee in the appeal and counsel’s name, address, phone number;

make sure the cover page of your petition and the certificate are consistent (i.e., if the cover page identifies the appellant as John Smith, Executor of the Estate of Mary Smith, he should be identified the same way in the certificate – not just as John Smith.);

only list unrepresented parties who are parties to the appeal (i.e., don’t list Gary Jones, unrepresented party, unless he is also an appellee and then also identify him as an appellee);

the date on which you mailed (or delivered – specify which) a copy of your petition for appeal to opposing counsel;

in a criminal case (or civil case, if applicable), whether counsel is appointed or retained; and

whether you want oral argument on your petition. If you do not specify whether you want oral argument in person or by conference call, it is scheduled in person

4. Send the $25.00 filing fee contemporaneous with the petition for appeal.

5. Once the petition for appeal and filing fee have been received, a record number is assigned to the case. For all subsequent pleadings or correspondence, please include the record number on the cover page.

6. Send in the correct number of copies of any pleading.

7. First, read the rules. If you aren’t sure what to do after reading the rule, contact the clerk’s office. We can generally give you the information or make an educated guess.

Note: the above suggestions, of course, have nothing to do with most of the requirements that need to be met in order to have your case considered on the merits, including timely filing the notice of appeal, transcript or written statement of facts, petition for appeal; listing assignments of error in your petition, preserving your objections at trial and other situations that can result in a procedural dismissal of an appeal.