Thursday, March 4, 2010

The State of the 4/3 is Strong!

At a standing-room-only event, the OCBA Appellate Law Section filled McCormick’s private room to capacity and enjoyed an entertaining and informative luncheon with 4/3 Presiding Justice David Sills, administrator Kevin Stinson, and supervising clerk Kathi Rossi.  Justice William Rylaarsdam also attended, as did several of my fellow court attorneys.

Kevin kicked off the “State of the Court” presentation. He noted the court hosted more than 400 people at its dedication in January, which celebrated the first courthouse designed, built, and maintained by the Administrative Office of the Courts and its Office of Court Construction and Management — and done so on time and UNDER budget.

He directed us to view the great AOC video on the dedication, available here.

Kevin singled out the court clerks for their good work. Statewide internal auditing of the online case calendaring system showed our clerks made no errors — zero — in docketing or calendaring.  Their unblemished score initially raised concerns, later proven unfounded, that our court wasn’t being audited at all. Instead, the audit worked perfectly. As do our clerks.

Kevin also noted some refinements to the filing process. Effective April 1, the filing window will be opened from 9 am to 4:30 pm. This better serves the public, who rarely filed anything before 9 and often rushed to get to court by 4. A microphone and speakers will be installed in the window to make it easier for clerks and the public to hear one another. And we will put Customer Service cards in the lobby to encourage feedback.

Kathi Rossi highlighted the most common reasons why filings are rejected. These include (1) skipping Part 3 on the Civil Case Information Sheet, (2) omitting a Certificate of Interested Parties in the first substantive filing (whether brief, petition, or motion), and (3) omitting original signatures.

Kathy also noted appellant’s opening briefs (AOBs) in civil cases may now be filed 40 days after the record, which extends the old deadline by 10 days. And she encouraged lawyers to file e-briefs after the paper copies.

PJ Sills encouraged all lawyers to tour the new courthouse, which can be arranged by anyone who works here at the court.  He lauded the construction project, noting the efficient work was facilitated by many parties inside and outside the court. He expected/hoped Furlough Fun Days (the 3rd Wed. of each month) would end this June, restoring our full availability to the public.

Justice Sills stated the court is getting back to current, which means oral argument will be scheduled as soon as the reply brief is due. He noted we had slipped slightly off-pace due to an increased caseload, relocation, and furlough days, but we are working hard and recovering quickly.

Finally, Justice Sills answered the question most asked of him: why does the court deny so many writ petitions? He joked the 4/3’s one-page denial order must be the most common court document in the county. He urged section members to remind other lawyers that writ relief is extraordinary; petitions set for oral argument jump the line in front of regular appeals.