Monday, January 22, 2007

2005 National Conference on Appellate Justice Report

I had the good fortune to be one of the breakout session reporters for the 2005 National Conference on Appellate Justice, held back in November of that year. The idea behind the conference, which was sponsored by the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, Federal Judicial Center, National Center for State Court, and The Institute of Judicial Administration, was to bring together appellate judges, appellate lawyers, academics, and others familiar with the appellate process to consider the functioning of the appellate courts. The last time such a gathering had occurred was at the 1975 National Conference on Appellate Justice.

In 1975, as I understand it, the prevailing mood was that the sky was about to fall as a result of the dramatic increase in the volume of cases before the courts. But things might not have been as bad as they seemed. That is to say, all of the volume-related trends identified in 1975 continued, and yet in 2005 the sky appeared to be in place. One of the core aims of the 2005 conference was to figure out whether none of the bad things everyone feared had come to pass, or whether instead things had actually eroded, but did so at such a slow pace that nobody really noticed the magnitude of the change.

The conference included several breakout sessions in which small groups of participants discussed these and other questions. Each of the thirteen breakout reporters prepared a report of his or her session, which we passed along to conference reporter Arthur Hellman. Arthur has recently posted a copy of the conference report on SSRN. The report touches on all the big issues surrounding appellate courts and the appellate process, does a nice job of relating the often conflicting views of lawyers and judges regarding how well the system is functioning, and will undoubtedly prove to be a valuable resource to those interested in the workings of the judiciary.

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