With the launch of this blog, we seek to discuss issues relating to appeals and appellate law in Maine, including the activities and decisions of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and First Circuit Court of Appeals relevant to Maine, and other participants in the Maine appellate community.

Calling all appellate wonks – notices of appeal and electronic filing in state court

A reader has alerted me to a dandy notice of appeal issue now pending before the Law Court involving the apparent clash of two civil rules – catnip to appellate jockeys!

The case is Perry v. Dean, Docket No. BCD-17-412.  Attached is a copy of an order reinstating the appeal that presents the issue.  (Order Reinstating Appeal)

To fill in the gaps, the appellant filed the notice of appeal with the Business and Consumer Docket (BCD) by e-mail pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 139 on the final day of the appeal period, but the paper copy with the appeal fee check did not arrive at the court until the following day.  Justice Gorman dismissed the appeal as untimely, but on motion by the Appellant reinstated the appeal, as reflected in the attached order, with instructions that the parties shall brief whether the appeal is timely given the provision of M.R. Civ. P. 5(f) that a filing shall

No sham, agreed; but as to why …..

One area of law I find of interest, given its First Amendment grounding, is the Noerr-Pennington doctrine – the protection of the right to petition from antitrust liability.  There’s a new First Circuit decision discussing the sham exception to that doctrine, under which an antitrust suit is allowed to go forward based on the defendant’s petitioning activities.  Puerto Rico Telephone Co., Inc. v. San Juan Cable LLC, No. 16-2132 (1st. Cir. 2017).  While, as the caption reflects, the case involved Puerto Rican parties, the trial court decision was issued by Maine’s own Judge Woodcock, sitting by designation.  His decision that the exception did not apply was affirmed in an opinion written by another Mainer, Judge Kayatta (on a panel with Judges Torruella and Barron).

The facts are simple – “not eager to face competition,” the defendant filed a gazillion petitions in Puerto Rican and federal courts and other tribunals to fend off an

The First Circuit Judicial Conference

I am now back from the First Circuit Judicial Conference, held every other year, and this time in Maine.  The juxtaposition of the content of this conference with the AAAL conference I blogged on last time presents an interesting perspective.

First, here is a very quick rundown of the events:

  • Chief Judge Howard noted that ex-Pierce Atwood-ite Judge Kayatta was the primary programmer, and as always, Judge Kayatta did a masterful job.  After a pretty harrowing report on the status of things in Puerto Rico, the first speaker was Erwin Chemerinsky, who attended my old alma mater, Northwestern, as an undergrad and who is now Dean of Berkeley School of Law. Every year, he prepares a very nice summary of the past year’s doings in the Supreme Court.  The 2016 term was a little different, given that there were only eight justices, but he still managed to glean interesting developments.  I appreciate his summaries greatly because they are not only concise, but clear

Back from the Future

I have returned from The American Academy of Appellate Lawyers’ conference on the future of appellate practice, leaving San Francisco just before the fires put an orange glow in the sky. While I was there, the weather was terrific and clear, with the Blue Angels flying overhead in a spectacular display. As reported by the program participants, the future of appellate practice may not be quite as bright. If you are a glass half-empty person with a vested interest in the status quo, it’s pretty darn bleak. If you are a glass half-full person with no legacy advantages, then the future is simply different than it has been, with upsides if you think outside the box.

To set the stage: we had sessions with judges and in-house counsel (heavy hitters from Schwab, Sony, Facebook and The Gap). Most interestingly, the judges of the Ninth Circuit, trial and appellate level, were polled on their views, and the anonymous results shared. While the title of the program focused

The future is in San Francisco

Next week I am off to the biannual meeting of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers in San Francisco, and the program looks great.  A gaggle of in-house counsel will be discussing the future of legal practice, taking a snapshot of 2027.  Then law school representatives will speak about what they are doing to meet the needs of that future, and making sure students are getting trained in appellate practice, now that it has become an accepted specialty field.  Then panelists are going to talk about suggested changes in the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, and then, more generally, spearheaded by the Chief Judge for the Ninth Circuit, the future of the federal appellate courts.  We wrap up with a session on access to justice, on recent developments in that arena.  As always, your intrepid reporter will provide a full download.

As our regular readers know, the last AAAL meeting was held in Boston.  The last issue of my AAAL Appellate Advocate has

2017 statistics

Practice area:

We last reported on the Maine court statistics in this blog entry – http://www.maineappeals.com/still-here/ – covering 2012-16.  The 2013-2017 period has now been posted (the FY ends June 30).  The 2017 numbers reflect a continuation of the trend we commented upon in our discussion of the 2012-16 period:  the total number of appeals are declining, with a big drop in civil commercial appeals. http://www.courts.maine.gov/news_reference/stats/pdf/year-trend/law-court.pdf

More specifically, the total number of civil appeals went down from 478 to 430 from FY16 to FY17, while criminal appeals declined from 174 to 160, so the total number of appeals went down from 652 to 590.  Worker’s comp appeals increased from 12 to 18.  80B and 80Cs went down from 28 to 24, probate halved from 27 to 13, and “general civil” went down from 150 to 134.  Family law appeals basically held steady.  

The same trends seem to be on the horizon, if you look at the Superior

Judge Posner and Mary Ann Lynch, Esq.

Practice area:

There are two names that have probably never been juxtaposed before.  One is a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals; the other Government and Media Counsel for the Maine Judicial Branch.  What do they have in common?  They are both retiring!

Mary Ann Lynch

After serving in this position for nine years, as of January 1, she is off to other things (running for office!).  It will be a big loss to the Court.   She was an invaluable resource, interfacing with the public, the Legislature, and the media, and will be sorely missed.  Good luck, Mary Ann!

Richard Posner

After 35 years on the bench, Judge Posner abruptly retired.  Here’s an exit interview with him – “An Exit Interview With Richard Posner, Judicial Provocateur”, The New York Times.  As he explains here, his immediate decision to leave the bench was precipitated by the lack of interest his colleagues on the bench showed to

Municipal mess

Practice area:

Recently, I blogged on a Law Court decision reflecting the predicament that arises with ordinances with appellate, not de novo, ZBA review of CEO decisions. See Appletree, or CEO, J.D.? I’m now updating the chapter on civil appeals in A Practical Guide to Superior Court Practice in Maine (MCLE 2015), a process that involves reviewing all the Law Court’s published 80B and 80C decisions from 2015-2017. That exercise underscores (a) what an unholy mess things are; and (b) the Court’s multiple, as-yet unheeded pleas for action.

To trace the Court’s mounting frustration, see CJ Saufley’s concurrence in Beckford v. Clifton, 2014 ME 156; then footnote 2 in The Withram Family Limited Partnership v. Town of Bar Harbor, 2015 ME 12; then note 1 in Hartwell v. Town of Ogunquit, 2015 ME 51; then Justice Gorman’s description of the incomprehensible ordinance the

They’re back!

Practice area:

In our last entry, we took a look backwards at decisions issued by the Law Court in August.  Now let’s look forward, at arguments scheduled for September 12-14. These arguments will be held in Augusta, as the SJC continues to ride the circuit.  Of the ten sessions schedule from September 2017 through July 2018, five are scheduled outside Portland, in Augusta, the high schools, and Bangor. (This is what happens when enough money is finally found by the Legislature – good for you – to spruce up the courts.)

Here’s a link to the full argument list: http://www.courts.maine.gov/maine_courts/supreme/oral_arguments_schedule.shtml

There are lots of criminal cases.  If you are a newbie at arguing, I’d suggest checking out the first one, with veteran and ace advocate AAG Macomber – someone who has argued in front of the Law Court even more than I have! Remember, if you can’t schlep over to the court to hear it in person, you can listen, either live or when

Law Court round up

Practice area:

Now that we are approaching the end of summer and the beginning of a new term for the Law Court, let’s peruse some recent rulings.  While you may have been frolicking in the ocean’s surf or skimming your jet ski across a lake this month, our SJC justices were cranking out decisions.

UM InsuranceAllocca v. York Insurance Company of Maine, 2017 ME 186.  This one brought out a gaggle of veteran insurance defense counsel – John Whitman, Martica Douglas, and James Poliquin.  They prevailed.  The question was whether UM insurance covered an event in which an assailant, operating another vehicle, forced the insured’s car onto a median, rammed the car, and shot the insured dead.  By contract and statute, the Court said, the UM insurance covered accidents, and not intentional torts.

Distracted drivingState v. Palmer, 2017 ME 183