UPDATE ON APPELLATE HAPPENINGS
(Posted June 15, 2023) With no new opinions today from the good folks at Ninth and Franklin, we have time to check on a few related items.
Courts’ holiday closings
The arrival of Juneteenth as a recognized holiday means that we now have a holiday season when the sun is warm, and not just toward the end of the year. The clerk’s offices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals of Virginia will be closed on Monday, June 19, and again on Monday and Tuesday, July 3 and 4.
Under Virginia law, the closing of these clerk’s offices automatically extends any deadline that would expire on any of these three dates. If your current deadline for something is already July 5, then you don’t get any extra time. Also, please be careful with the July 3 date; if you have a deadline to file something in the circuit court, then you must check with that court to see if its clerk’s office will be open for some reason. If it is, and July 3 is your deadline for something, then you don’t get any relief here.
Turning to the federal milieu, the Fourth Circuit will be closed on Monday, June 19, and on Tuesday, July 4. It’s conceivable that the court may eventually shutter the courthouse on the 3rd, too, to give its employees a long weekend. But I doubt it.
A salutary pay increase
The state courts have issued a press release noting that the rate of pay for court-appointed criminal-defense lawyers in the Court of Appeals of Virginia is getting a boost. You can see the new rates here; they kick in on July 1.
SCV writs and merit sessions
I’ve written recently about the slow pace of writ grants in the Supreme Court of Virginia. The court convened writ panels on May 23, hearing 24 petitions for appeal that day, and has yet to announce any writs from that gathering. In my experience, I believe we’ll receive word of any such grants in the next couple of weeks – probably next Tuesday, June 20. I’m tempering my expectations. (Update June 27 — The court has awarded three new appeals — two from the May panels and one apparently without oral argument. Those three, plus the two granted in April, give us a fair estimate, but only an estimate, of the November argument docket.)
The court schedules six writ panels and six merits sessions each year. There’s a rhythm to the panel/session process. What follows is very rough; there are a few exceptions, but this reflects general practice:
- Writs granted after the February panels generally “feed” the September merits session.
- Writs granted in the April and May panels lead to merits arguments in October/November.
- Writs arising from the late August panels usually land on the next year’s January and February/March session dockets.
- Writs from the October panels are usually heard on the merits in the next year’s April session.
- Those writs granted from the December panels generally land on the following June’s full session docket.
This should give you a general idea of when to expect an oral-argument notice if the court has awarded an appeal in your case. There are normally six or seven months between a panel date and an argument session to the full Supreme Court.
This also gives us a rough idea of what to expect for merits dockets for the remainder of 2023. The court awarded five appeals in the February writ panels, so that’s a rough estimate of the size of the September docket.
I expect the actual September docket to vary from that guess by one or two. For one reason, the court removed the Moison v. Commonwealth appeal from the June session docket, and it might resurface in September. And it’s always possible to see an OJ case arrive; proceedings invoking the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction don’t show up on the “Appeals Granted” web page because there’s no writ process there. Think attorney-discipline or State Corporation Commission cases.
What I can’t do yet is estimate the size of this year’s October/November docket. The April writ session was almost barren – just two writs granted. As noted above, we haven’t seen any from last month’s panels yet, though those might hit the website next week or the week after. If the court awards only an appeal or two out of the 24 petitions heard in May – roughly the same grant rate as in April – then the last session of the year may well be another one-day affair.