REPORT ON APPELLATE DOINGS
(Posted September 21, 2023) “Can’t act; slightly bald; can dance a little.” (Casting director’s report on an early 1930s screen test by Frederick Austerlitz, better known to us as Fred Astaire.)
A torrent of writs
Okay; I exaggerate. The Supreme Court has awarded five appeals from the batch of petitions argued three weeks ago. That feels like a torrent; before this batch, the court had awarded just 13 appeals all year. These five are likely destined for the January session; possibly February.
As for the future, there are two more writ panels in 2023: one in mid-October and one in early December. Any writs granted in those writ sessions will definitely be argued in 2024.
The other side of the building
The Fourth Circuit’s recent announcement of the September argument docket contains this passage: “Due to construction, the Bank Street entrance is closed until further notice. Please allow extra time for security screening.” I’m not sure what work is in progress at the foot of Capitol Square, but lawyers, litigants, and courtwatchers will have to use the (very serviceable) Main Street entrance.
This development may seem mundane to you; you may be surprised that I mentioned it. But in this period of appellate doldrums in Richmond, it qualifies as a major news flash.
Last call for the Virginia Appellate Summit
The Summit convenes in one week in Richmond. It’s the best gathering of the appellate benches and bar in the Commonwealth. The good folks at McGuire Woods have again generously donated the use of space in their downtown Richmond office for the event; given my long devotion to the Summit, I’m profoundly grateful to that firm.
Humanizing the robe
As I was typing today’s update, my estimable legal assistant, Debi Campbell, handed me today’s mail, consisting of a single item: Volume 3 of the advance sheets for 301 Virginia Reports. This, too, looked like a minor news item; akin to my reporting to you about the light traffic on my commute this morning. But opening the volume gave me a pleasant surprise.
The introductory matter in this volume, before we get to the blood-and-guts of the opinions, comprises proceedings of the Supreme Court in early November 2022. It is the record of special sessions of the court for the investiture of Justice Thomas Mann and the portrait presentation – the “public hanging” – for Senior Justice Bill Mims.
Perhaps you’ve seen these often-dry inclusions at the beginnings of various volumes of the reporter; maybe you’ve never read them. (After all, they’re pretty useless as citations for legal authority.) Please take my advice and read these two when you can. They’re wonderful descriptions of the men, not just the jurists. They include laughter and wit and gratitude and humility and even love. Justice Mims mentions with fondness the Oxford comma, for which he gets extra credit in my book.
If you haven’t met these two men personally, I hope you’ll have the occasion; they’re both extraordinarily pleasant and gracious. This publication ensures that posterity will know that, too.