Thursday, November 7, 2013

Big Day for Justice Thompson

Today the DJ profiles 4/3's newest member, Justice David Thompson in a particularly illuminating article. Justice Thompson is quoted as saying that although he's been somewhat quiet at oral argument during his start-up year, "I'm about to start asserting myself." He also anticipates filing dissents: "Some people think unanimity is important [but] I think if I have ... a disagreement, I should present it ... to see if it gains legs. ... That's how the common law develops." (Sound familiar?) He also goes on record as favoring some mechanism by which the court could let attorneys know which particular issues in a case are important to help improve oral argument. (Sound familiar?) The profile provides interesting details about the justice's personal and legal background. So don't miss it! (Kudos to DJ reporter Don DeBenedictis.)
David A. Thompson, Associate Justice

But that's not all....
Justice Thompson took his show on the road today as the featured speaker at the Orange County Bar Appellate Law Section's lunch program, The First Year: Insights from the Appellate Bench.
This shindig was a real court-family affair, with Justices Rylaarsdam, Moore, and Aronson in the audience, as well as Justice Thompson's entire chambers (all three research attorneys and judicial assistant), plus other court personnel. Did their presence temper his comments? Seemingly not at all.
In the interview program (emceed by MC Sungaila), Justice Thompson spoke frankly about pet peeves, surprises and disappointed expectations. Usual topics were covered: briefs are too long, "less is more" (in both briefing and oral argument), statement of facts suffer from irrelevancies and lack of context; records in sufficiency of the evidence appeals are inadequate or one-sided; briefs cite to spans of record material rather than specific pages.
But following up on the themes of his DJ profile, he reiterated his belief that opinions should express differing opinions; that unanimity is not a value in and of itself; and that minority viewpoints help the common law evolve. Also, he favors sharing the court's tentative views in a case to help focus oral argument.
He also lamented how "very quiet" his day-to-day life has become as an appellate justice in contrast to his years on the trial bench. And further expressed disappointment in how the overwhelming majority of cases on appeal simply do not raise novel or interesting issues. He was expecting a lot more excitement!
Well, aren't we all?

The appellate community owes it to Justice Thompson to up the ante!