How Long Does a California Civil Appeal Take?

Based on 2016 California court statistics, the time from the notice of appeal in a civil case to the filing of the Court of Appeal’s opinion differs substantially between California’s six appellate districts, and even between divisions within districts. The fastest California appellate court currently is Division 6 of the Second District in Ventura, with a median time of 423 days (a little over 14 months) to process a civil appeal from the notice of appeal to the filing of the decision. Ninety percent of all civil appeals in the court are processed in 667 days (a little over 22 months).

At the other end of the spectrum is the Third District in Sacramento, with a median time of 693 days (a little over 23 months) to process a civil appeal from the notice of appeal to the filing of the decision. Ninety percent of all civil appeals in the Third District are processed in 1,107 days (a little over 3 years).

Statewide, the median time to process civil appeals for all California appellate courts is 518 days (a little over 17 months), with ninety percent of all civil appeals processed statewide on average in 846 days (a little over 28 months).

Why the discrepancy between courts? Filings per justice explain much, but so does backlog. The Third District, for example, has far and away the largest number of pending appeals per justice.

And while we’re discussing statistics, what are your chances for success on appeal? If you’re the appellant, they’re pretty slim. Only 10% of civil appeals were reversed statewide in 2014-15. And if you decide to seek review in the California Supreme Court, it’s even more of a longshot—only 6% of petitions for review from civil appeals were granted by the Supreme Court in 2014-15.

The complete 2016 statistics can be found here.

Pyrrhic Victories Are to Be Avoided

This column discussed this subject almost 20 years ago (NYLJ April 7, 1999), but two recent decisions publicized on the front pages of the Law Journal suggest that it would be well to advise a new generation of lawyers that tactical victories in a jury trial may be followed by a loss of the appellate war. As a reminder, King Pyrrhus of Epirus, in Greece, triumphed over the Romans at Asculum, in southeastern Italy, in 279 B.C.E., but his losses were so heavy that he is reported to have said: “Another such victory over the Romans, and we are undone.” Bartlett’s, “Familiar Quotations,” p. 92, quoting Plutarch, “Lives,” Pyrrhus.

In litigation, the aim of an injured plaintiff is to obtain monetary or some other form of relief; for the defendant, vindication and dismissal of the action. It cannot be counted a victory if a favorable verdict is set aside by the trial or appellate court after a lengthy trial and the case must be retried at considerable expense, loss of time and renewed mental and emotional strain on the injured party or his or her survivors—all because of counsel’s avoidable error.

To read the full text of this article by Duane Morris attorney Thomas R. Newman, please visit the Duane Morris LLP website.

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Major Sports Betting Case

The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will hear an appeal from the en banc Third Circuit in the closely watched and long-running New Jersey sports betting litigation (consisting of two consolidated cases, Governor Christopher J. Christie, et al., v. NCAA et al., No. 16-476 and New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Inc. v. NCAA et al., No. 16-477).  The consolidated appeal, which will be argued next term, urges the Supreme Court to reverse the en banc Third Circuit panel that refused to allow New Jersey to expand sports betting in that state.

This appeal and the potential nationwide consequences of reversing the Third Circuit panel were the subject of an extended presentation and discussion at Duane Morris’ Future of Sports Betting panel, held on April 27, 2017.  The panel included John Brennan, staff writer for The Record; Andrew Brandt, Director of the Moorad Center for Sports Law at Villanova Law School; and Christopher Soriano, Partner at Duane Morris.

Recent Appellate Decision Draws Attention to Key Steps to Enforcing Restrictive Covenants

The Pennsylvania Superior Court’s recent decision in Metalico Pittsburgh, Inc. v. Douglas Newman, et al., No. 354 WDA 2016, 2017 PA Super. 109 (Apr. 19, 2017), confirms the importance of careful contractual drafting in agreements containing non-compete clauses and other post-employment restrictive covenants.  In circumstances where an employee is hired for a term of employment but later becomes an at-will employee, that contractual language may determine the enforceability of the agreement’s non-compete and non-solicitation provisions.

Metalico entered into employment agreements with two employees in 2011. Each employment agreement had a three‑year term and a non‑solicitation provision prohibiting solicitation of employees and customers to join competitors during their employment and for a finite period thereafter. After the three‑year employment terms ended in 2014, both employees continued to work as at‑will employees for one year. Shortly thereafter, the two employees began working for a business competitor and allegedly began soliciting Metalico customers and employees to move to that competitor. Metalico sued to enforce the agreements’ non-solicitation provisions.

Continue reading “Recent Appellate Decision Draws Attention to Key Steps to Enforcing Restrictive Covenants”

How Long Will My Ninth Circuit Civil Appeal Take?

We hear that question frequently. Using the most recent statistics from the Administrative Office of the United States Courts published in its Judicial Business 2016 report for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, the median time from Appellee’s brief to oral argument in civil appeals terminated on the merits in the Ninth Circuit is 16.5 months, and from notice of appeal to decision is 25.5 months (and that is just the median time–half the appeals take longer.) (See Table B-4A.) This is the slowest of the circuits. The next slowest circuit—the DC Circuit—handles civil appeals in 3.8 months from Appellee’s brief to oral argument, and 11.7 months from notice of appeal to decision.

The Ninth Circuit is the largest circuit geographically, and it remains the busiest, with 13,152 cases pending as of December 31, 2016. The next busiest circuit—the Fifth—had 5,252 cases pending as of the same date.  But measured by matters terminated on the merits per active judge, the Ninth Circuit is very much in the middle of the circuits, with 488 merits-based terminations per judge through December 31, 2016. The circuit with the heaviest workload, using this same measurement, is the Eleventh Circuit, with 1,151 merits-based dispositions per judge. The lowest terminations per active judge is the DC Circuit, with 163.

Duane Morris Partner Rob Palumbos Appointed Vice Chair of the Appellate Court Procedural Rules Committee of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Rob PalumbosDuane Morris congratulates partner Robert M. Palumbos on being appointed Vice Chair of the Appellate Court Procedural Rules Committee of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Appellate Court Procedural Rules Committee is responsible for making formal recommendations to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for refining and updating the rules of appellate procedure. Mr. Palumbos begins his term on June 30, 2017.

What Makes a Pennsylvania Superior Court Decision Non-Precedential?

By Andrew Sperl and Erica Fruiterman

In Carlitz v. Guse, No. 1370 MDA 2015 (Pa. Super. Apr. 4, 2017) the Superior Court recently issued a 49-page unpublished opinion affirming the lower court’s grant of a new trial. The new trial was originally granted on the basis that the plaintiff was prejudiced by defense counsel’s introduction of a new theory of causation in violation of a pre-trial order precluding that theory.

In deciding the matter, the majority crafted a 49-page opinion, to which the dissenting judge responded with a 12-page dissent, examining whether the new trial was warranted in light of defense counsel’s conduct. The crux of the appeal was whether the “new” theory introduced at trial was within the fair scope of the expert’s first report. These issues – the scope of related theories of causation, the proper remedy when a trial court fails to explicitly rule on whether an initial theory of causation encompasses a later related theory, and when attorney conduct constitutes prejudicial error warranting a new trial – are all factual issues that required extensive analysis by the court.

Given the infrequency with which cases go to trial and the even fewer number of those cases that are challenged on an abuse of discretion basis, relatively few cases like this receive appellate review. However, the Superior Court’s Internal Operating Procedures prohibit citation to unpublished decisions like Carlitz, even for persuasive value. A proposed amendment to the Rules of Appellate Procedure may change that.

On January 7th of this year, the Appellate Court Procedure Rules Committee sought comments on its proposal to amend Rule of Appellate Procedure 126. This amendment would create a uniform rule permitting citation to unpublished memorandum decisions of Pennsylvania’s appellate courts for their persuasive value. Currently, the Superior Court’s Internal Operating Procedures prohibit citation to that court’s unpublished opinions except in limited circumstances. 210 Pa. Code § 65.37. The Commonwealth Court permits citation to its unpublished opinions issued after January 15, 2008 “for [their] persuasive value, but not as binding precedent.” 210 Pa. Code § 69.414. The comments to the draft rule explain that only non-precedential decisions from the date the rule is adopted would be available for citation. The public comment window closed on February 9, 2017, and submission of the proposed amendment to the Supreme Court should soon follow.

In our common law system, judicial opinions are not just a byproduct of deciding an individual case. They also provide guidance to courts and litigants. In fact, it has even been argued that the Superior Court’s policy against allowing citation violates Article V, Section I of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which vests the Commonwealth’s judicial power in the courts (an argument the court rejected). See Schaaf v. Kaufman, 850 A.2d 655 (Pa. Super. 2004).

On the other hand, the Superior Court is one of the busiest in the nation, and its bar against citing unpublished opinions is motivated by, among other things, a concern that “[a]lthough the court give[s] every case the attention necessary to render a decision, [it] cannot draft each decision with as great of care. . . . [M]emorandum decisions are a useful, although admittedly not ideal, tool for deciding cases while maintaining control of our time and the development of the law.” Id. at 661.

The proposed rule change takes a reasonable approach by maintaining unpublished opinions as tools for the court to dispose of cases without precedential effect, while still allowing those decisions to be cited for their persuasive value. Allowing citation to unpublished opinions particularly makes sense where there is no restriction on litigants’ ability to cite other types of non-binding precedent (such as trial court cases from other jurisdictions), and where the court’s unpublished opinions are widely available online.

Supreme Court to Review Limitations on Appellate Extensions

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in a case that will provide much needed clarity about the ability of district courts to extend appeal deadlines. The case, Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (No. 16-658), involves the interplay between 28 U.S.C. § 2107(c) and Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(5)(C). The Court will hear the case during its October 2017 term.

Section 2107(c) provides that district courts may extend the deadline to appeal “upon motion filed not later than 30 days after the expiration of the time otherwise set for bringing appeal.” Rule 4(a)(5)(C), however, provides that no extension “may exceed 30 days after the prescribed time or 14 days after the date when the order granting the motion is entered, whichever is later.”

In Hamer, the Seventh Circuit held that the district court lacked authority to grant a 60-day extension of an appeal deadline in response to a motion that was timely filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2107(c). Relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in Bowles v. Russell, 551 U.S. 205 (2007), the Seventh Circuit held that “Rule 4(a)(5)(C) is the vehicle by which § 2107(c) is employed and it limits a district court’s authority to extend the notice of appeal filing deadline to no more than an additional 30 days.” Because the notice of appeal was filed after the 30-day limitation in Rule 4(a)(5)(C), the Seventh Circuit dismissed.

In reaching that conclusion, the Seventh Circuit sided with the Second, Fourth, and Tenth Circuits, which had split with the D.C. and Ninth Circuits on the issue. The Supreme Court’s decision in Hamer should resolve the split and provide the bench and bar with much needed certainty about deadlines to appeal.

Government Abandons Prior Interpretation of 2006 Veterans Act in New Brief to the Supreme Court

In a brief filed with the Supreme Court on September 29, 2015 in the case Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. v. United States, 14-916, the government abandoned the restrictive interpretation of the 2006 Veterans Act that it pressed before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (background on the case may be found here). The 2006 Veterans Act requires that the VA prioritize competitive bidding by veteran-owned small businesses, but the VA has for years declined to follow that mandate to the full extent Congress required. In briefing before various courts, including the Supreme Court, the government had for several years (and as recently as May 1, 2015) contended that the VA was allowed to limit competitive bidding by veteran-owned small businesses for VA contracts, but the government has now – six weeks before oral argument before the Supreme Court – abandoned that position. Instead, the government now contends that VA “orders” that may be filled through the Federal Supply Schedule should be excluded from mandatory competitive bidding, while VA “contracts” should not. Continue reading “Government Abandons Prior Interpretation of 2006 Veterans Act in New Brief to the Supreme Court”

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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