How Cases are Decided at the COA, Part Two
May 15, 2014 § 1 Comment
Continuing with COA Presiding Judge Griffis’s paper:
C. The Decision Process
1. Initial Assignment
A case is assigned to the Court of Appeals by a notice of assignment. The Clerk prepares the notice and sends a copy to the parties. The Clerk also provides the Court with a list of cases assigned.
The case assignment list identifies each case assigned and makes an initial writing assignment to a Judge. That assignment is based on a random assignment protocol. The protocol tries to balance the workload among the Judges.
The case assignment list is sent to each Judge. If a Judge decides to recuse, the case is reassigned on a random rotation.
After the case asssignment list is circulated, the Clerk’s office delivers the appellate materials to the assigned Judge’s chambers. The appellate materials include all of the copies of the briefs, the record excerpts, the record, the transcript, the exhibits, and the Clerk’s file. The assigned writing Judge then initiates the review of the case.
2. Panel Conference
The Court divides its work into six “sittings.” A sitting is similar to a term of court. Each sitting lasts for two months.
During a sitting, the Judges are divided among three panels. A panel includes at least three Judges, assigned by the Chief Judge. The Chief Judge or a Presiding Judge presides over each panel. The panel assignments are not disclosed.
Each panel considers the cases assigned to the panel by the panel Judges. Before the sitting begins, each JUdge decides which of the cases assigned will be submitted to the panel. On average, each Judge assigns ten cases to each sitting. The assigned Judge delivers each panel Judge a ccopy of the briefs and record excerpts for each case. The assigned Judge retains the record, transcript and the clerk’s papers.
The Docket Calendar is a published list of the cases assigned to each sitting. The Docket Calendar is disclosed on the Court’s website at the beginning of each sitting.
b. Oral Argument
The panel decides whether to grant oral argument. The panel’s decision is final and is not subject to review. The Court Administrator notifies the counsel of record when an oral argument is set.
The assigned Judges will participate in the oral argument. Non-panel Judges do not attend the oral argument but often watch the internet broadcast.
The internet broadcast of Supreme Court and Court of Appeals oral arguments may be accessed through the “Oral Argument Webcast” link on the Court’s website — www.court.ms.gov.
Oral arguments take place in the Court’s main courtroom, located on the first floor of the Carroll Gartin Justice Building. The Court also regularly hears oral argument at other locations.
The “Court on the Road” program has held oral arguments at Mississippi State University, the University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi College School of Law, and the University of Mississippi School of Law. The Court has also held arguments at Mississippi Valley State University, William Carey College, Jones County JUnior College, and the Lamar County Courthouse, to name a few. Requests for Court on the Road programs to be held in your area may be made to the Court Administrator.
c. Panel Conference Dates
The Chief or Presiding Judge coordinates with the other Judges on the panel to set the conference dates. At a panel conference, all panel Judges meet to discuss each case. The panel conference makes a preliminary decision on the case, establishes the writing assignment, and starts the clock on internal deadlines to produce an opinion.
The Chief or Presiding Judge ensures that each case moves forward to a decision and preparation of an opinion without unnecessary delay. The Chief or Presiding Judge sets the dates for panel conferences and presides over the discussion. Panel conferences are normally set weekly for the first five or six weeks of each sitting.
Next: From Panel consideration through Circulation of the Opinion