Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Off To The Emerald City

But The Wizard Seems To Be Out

Well, this has been a great week, so far. Sick on Monday, but that's another story. Today and yesterday were visits to the big city to do oral argument in our intermediate appellate court. Same panel of judges, one case on each day. You'd think they'd find someway to try and match attorneys to cases so we aren't hit with this sort of thing. Ah, well, I've had the other problem, too. That is, two panels running and I've got cases on same call in both of them. Happily, the courtrooms are only about 50 yards apart and the court officers, all retired cops, are very helpful in getting you from one to the other, and keeping the judges calm.

Anyway, it's not all that uncommon to have argument on two different days. The court sets arguments on the first and second Tuesday and Wednesday of the month with two calls each day. The first starting a 9:00 a.m. and the second nominally at noon. That one really begins after the panel takes its morning break, usually 20 minutes or so between 11:30 and 12:30, depending on how verbose the parties in the first call have been. In theory, each endorsed for argument party gets half an hour if there are only two parties, less time the more co-/cross/third-parties there are. If only one side has argument, they get 15 minutes.

Because of the shear size of this Midwestern wilderness, we have several divisions of our intermediate appellate court. While they may not pay much attention to what they've done to you on the actual day of your call, they do keep you close to home, if they can. I never argue in the courtrooms that are actually for the district my county is in -- to far away. Easily twice as far in time, even more in distance, than the state building in the big city. So, a couple of days a month I get out of the office for a little field trip to a real downtown in a real metro area.

Did I mention my law school is within nice day walking distance of the court? Well, it is. And how big an appeals geek am I? Well, sometimes, when there is nothing pressing back at the office, I'll spend a hour or two at the law library. It's amazing what you can find in the collections of a major law library. Ever hear of "The Green Bag"? My alma mater has an almost complete run of the original magazine, bound in yearly volumes. A window into the practice and live of the law from the 1890s to the 19-teens. I discovered them one rainy day in first year while on one of those sadistic treasure hunts legal research and writing instructors are so fond of. It made the silly TH worthwhile.

Anyway, two cases this week, one on each day of the call. Tuesday's was a termination of parental rights appeal. Which was a little odd. Those are almost always decided by summery panels because there is almost nothing to argue about. Of course, there is, in the abstract. But it's always the same. The judge committed clear error when he found one of the statutory grounds for termination. If the judge was correct on the grounds, then the judge committed clear error in finding that the best interests of the child required termination. So why did this one draw a oral argument shot?

Going into the argument, all I could think of was that, procedurally, the case was a little unusual in that it was initially heard by a family court hearing officer who had denied the DSS petition to terminate. Our assigned APA had requested a de novo review by the judge assigned to juvenile cases. Some what unexpectedly, he won and the judge ordered mom's rights terminated.

More tomorrow. I'm going to get this posted so you all don't think I've died, or something.

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