Notice & Comment

D.C. Circuit Review – Reviewed: What to Read When There Are No Opinions

Fall is a time of transition, and so it is on the D.C. Circuit this year. As my colleague wrote, the Court lost one of its luminaries with Judge Silberman’s passing. Two new judges have joined; Judge Childs’ first sitting was in September and Judge Pan has her first sitting in November. And the Court has shifted its focus to this term’s cases, having largely (if not entirely?) issued all the opinions from the prior year’s arguments.

There was thus only one opinion this week, in a criminal case argued last May, which I will not attempt to summarize.

Given the dearth of opinions, I was casting about for what interesting tidbits of D.C. Circuit news to bring you this week, and I stumbled upon a draft article by Alli Orr Larsen and Neal Devins called Circuit Personalities, forthcoming in the Virginia Law Review. It is a fascinating read for anyone who practices in the courts of appeals or is generally interested in the process of judicial decision-making, but for present purposes I shall just draw out some “fun facts” about the D.C. Circuit:

  • The D.C. Circuit hears argument in over half of its cases, the highest rate of any circuit (this did not surprise me).
  • The D.C. Circuit has the highest rate of published opinions, at around 45% (the highest rate did not surprise me, but I would have expected a higher percentage).
  • The D.C. Circuit is in the middle-of-the-pack to low end on the rate of going en banc—the article has some interesting analysis of a decrease over time of en banc rehearing in the D.C. Circuit as a measure of increased collegiality generated by/during Judge Edwards’ tenure as Chief Judge.
  • The D.C. Circuit favors a more formal approach to discussing cases, where some other circuits have more informal approaches to case discussion, but it employs a “clerk network” approach where some others don’t.
  • Some D.C. Circuit judges “lamented that they may be less connected with one another since they all sit in the same city where they live and thus the socializing traditions in other circuits do not happen without effort.” Apparently the Sixth Circuit has a joviality committee!

There is much more information in the article about the internal practices of different courts of appeals—and substantive analysis of how those practices could mitigate partisanship or improve collective decision-making. Well worth a read while we wait on the D.C. Circuit to start issuing opinions in this year’s crop of cases!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email