UPDATE ON APPELLATE COURTS’ PROCEDURES
(Posted June 24, 2020) Our fair Commonwealth appears to be emerging slowly from the biggest health challenges posed by the Coronavirus contagion, even as other states, principally to our south and west, worsen. Here’s a quick report on how appellate courts here are handling their dockets.
Court of Appeals of Virginia
Yesterday the CAV entered an order that initiates Phase III of its operations in response to the pandemic. Key new provisions include an announcement that the Court of Appeals will entertain oral argument by remote means, either telephone or video-conference, through the end of October. The court still wants you to e-file everything using the VACES system; the drop box at the courthouse entrance is only for those precious few filers who absolutely cannot file electronically. There’s a tangible drawback to filing on paper: anything that you file that way, whether it goes to the drop box or arrives by mail or courier, will result in a delay of at least a day, and likely two, before anyone sees it. Use electrons!
Supreme Court of Virginia
The justices entered a sixth judicial-emergency order on Monday. This order doesn’t contain any new provisions for operations in the Supreme Court itself; the changes primarily govern proceedings in trial courts. The building is still off-limits unless you have official business at the court.
The next officially calendared gathering of the Robes will be September 2/3, when the court has customarily convened “road shows,” two writ panels in courthouses outside Richmond. It remains to be seen whether the court will actually travel to those courthouses, or will continue to receive oral arguments remotely. If I were dumb enough to be a betting man, I’d wager a small sum on the electronic approach for those panels and even for the September session; but I don’t have any inside information about this.
This court issued a notice on June 1 that continues in effect; its stated expiration date is August 31. That court, too, has a drop box, but you’re better off e-filing everything through the CM/ECF system. The requirement to file a paper copy has been suspended for now.
Quick note on the SCOTUS docket
As always, when June draws near to a close, the biggest bombshells from the Supreme Court of the United States start landing. The Court has traditionally closed out its term by June 30, and usually does so with a flurry of high-profile, media-magnet opinions.
The Court’s next opinion day is tomorrow. There are 14 cases remaining from those argued this term. Ten of those were argued in the pandemic-delayed May sitting; they had previously been scheduled for April. My best guess is that the Court will decide the earlier-argued ones first, simply because the justices have had more time to prepare them. That means that the likeliest ones to arrive tomorrow, in the order they were argued, are Espinoza (tax credits for non-religious schools only), Thuraissigiam (deportation orders), Seila Law (validity of the CFPB), and June Medical (abortion). I expect one or more of these decisions to arrive tomorrow. For the other ten, we may or may not get rulings sometime next week.