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 they post the argument shortly thereafter (but don’t dilly dally, the arguments don’t stay on the site forever).
The second argument on Tuesday, Maine v. Champagne, also has an experienced arguer, AAG Leanne Robbin, and as summarized on the Court’s web site, would involve an interesting issue – the defendant claims “he was motivated by his religious beliefs and not by any bias against any particular sexual orientation, and therefore his statements and conduct are protected by the First Amendment and cannot form the basis for an injunction” under the Maine Civil Rights Act.
Reading that summary triggered a flashback to an item high on Cathy’s wish list – it would be great to get a head’s up on appeals in which some prospective amici might want to be heard, but just don’t know that the issue is being addressed. The Massachusetts SJC asks for amici briefs in about 40% of its cases, and those notices are widely disseminated. The Law Court has started to ask for amici briefs in some cases, but still not very often, and the Court can’t always know how a particular issue it’s about to rule on may have ramifications outside the confines of the case before it. If there were some way to post these summaries, or some sort of summary, early enough so an amicus brief could be in the cards timing-wise, that would be terrific. As to this particular issue, for example, I can think of multiple organizations that might well have wanted to file an amici brief and have useful things to say on the topic.
Not to be deterred, your intrepid blogger looked at the actual briefs in Champagne and the Maine Civil Rights statute. Fortunately, the statute and the activity at issue in the case relate to conduct, not speech – ramming someone’s car. So not really a hot speech issue – see Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 U.S. 47 (1993). That said, my wish remains for some mechanism to learn about what’s coming up before the Law Court in time to act. In the end, having some such timely mechanism before an argument could ultimately save the Court effort, because then amici wouldn’t try to do something after a decision in a motion to reconsider. (The Maine Rules of Appellate Procedure are silent as to whether an amicus brief can be filed to support such a motion. As far as I know, people have filed such briefs, but the Court hasn’t ruled on whether such briefs are allowed in that context over a party’s objection.)
Back to the argument list.
If you are a tax jockey and care whether something is a fee or a tax, check out the last appeal on Tuesday, State v. Biddeford Internet Corp.,
Finally, the second argument on Wednesday relates to an issue which lawyers might find of interest – are arbitration clauses in retainer agreements enforceable in legal malpractice claims? Snow v. Bernstein, Shur et al.