Innovations by Stage - Preparing the Opinion/Decision

What's in this guide?

Summarized results of the 2015 survey and the innovations being put into place by many appellate courts.  

  Main Appellate Page
    Summary of Appellate Innovations Survey
    Widespread Technology Innovations
    Technology Innovations On the Horizon
    Preparing the Record
    Briefing Stage
    Case Assignment/Scheduling
    Preparing Opinion/Decision
    Other Innovations

For more information about the Appellate Innovations Survey, please email John Doerner.

Establishing Time Expectations for drafting, circulation & review/Monitoring of Assigned Cases: 

Courts of Last Resort

  • Kansas Supreme Court:  The court has established internal guidelines for monitoring time to disposition and in particular time from oral argument to release of opinion.  The guidelines and information are used internally by each Justice individually and collectively for the status of cases in which an opinion is pending but not yet released. 
  • Court of Appeals of Maryland:  The Chief Judge requires the Court to have all opinions completed within the same term they are argued.
  • Michigan Supreme Court: The Court has self-imposed time guidelines for circulating the first drafts of majority opinions and concurrences/dissents.  pending cases are monitored by the Chief Justice's office.  The Court also meets weekly to discuss all circulated opinions.
  • Pennsylvania Supreme Court:  Internal Operating Procedure 4 and monitoring of Chief Justice tend to keep matters moving.
  • Rhode Island Supreme Court:  Internal time standards are in place for issuance of opinions.
  • Texas Supreme Court:  We have internal deadlines for circulating opinions, which are not made available to the public, but which the Justices strive to meet. The Chief Justice sends a report to the Governor and the Legislature stating how the Justices did meeting these internal deadlines. This report is a public report.
  • Utah Supreme Court:  The judicial council has established time standards for circulating opinions. The justices work diligently and deliberately. The balance produces opinions of high quality within a reasonable time.
  • Wyoming Supreme Court:  The Justices usually have opinions circulated within the time allowed by Internal Operating Rules.

Intermediate Appellate Courts

  • Arkansas Court of Appeals:  The court has a general practice that an opinion should be handed down 2 weeks after the case is conferenced and no longer than 60 days.
  • Colorado Court of Appeals:  Use and monitoring of open case reports, that are distributed court wide and to the judicial performance commission.
  • Kansas Court of Appeals:  Each chambers circulates a weekly score-sheet of all pending cases and the chief's office prepares a monthly 60-day list to make sure that judges keep track of all cases and file opinions in a timely manner.
  • Louisiana Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit:  The court has an internal rule of 30 days from argument to opinion.  Most divisions have no trouble following it.
  • Michigan Court of Appeals:  The judges have expectations of the time to prepare/release an opinion following oral argument. A vast majority of opinions are released within that time. The chief judge monitors the time in chambers of the cases to ensure they are met to the extent possible.
  • Nevada Court of Appeals:  There are defined timelines for distributing drafts and the editing process. 
  • North Carolina Court of Appeals:  Court practice of filing opinions within 90 days of hearing the case is followed well by most judges most of the time.
  • Pennsylvania Superior Court:  Each case is allotted 90 days to draft. 
  • Washington Court of Appeals, Division II:  We have established time standards for each judge for every step of the process from Heard to Opinion Filed.  We expect 75% of the assigned cases to be filed within 105 days.  Currently we meet or exceed this goal.

Working up the Case prior to Argument/Submission:  

Intermediate Appellate Courts

  • New York Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department:  Proposed decisions are generally prepared in advance of oral argument. Any editing that is done thereafter GENERALLY does not delay the issuing of a decision.
  • Ohio Second District Court of Appeals:  Our judges work on cases prior to the argument/conference date. This is the part of the process the court has most control over. The court is aware of time deadlines and tends to get the work done in a very timely manner.