Appellate Conference Report


So at last here is my report from the 2010 First Circuit conference in Boston May 13-14.

Most of the federal judges from the Circuit were there, including Justices Souter and Breyer.  There were about 40 lawyers from Maine and a total of @ 350 lawyers overall. 

The reception on May 13 included opening remarks from Judges Lynch, Wolf and Fuste, followed by a short speech from Mayor Mennino discussing issues such as youth crime and efforts to address that problem.

The next day the opening presentation was from Professor Goldsmith on the Obama counter-terrorism program, the gist of which was it's not so different from Bush's.   This was followed by presentations from Professors Perold and Moss, like Goldsmith from Harvard, and Judge Richard Posner, all talking about the global economic condition.  Here's a summary:  it stinks.  [who says lawyers can't be brief?]

The lunch speaker was the ex-longtime New York Times reporter and now Yalie Linda Greenhouse, who gave an interesting presentation on the political climate in the U.S. when Roe v. Wade came down, and how that actual climate differed from what we later now think it was. 

After lunch Elena Kagan was supposed to speak, but apparently she had something else to do, so Professor Tribe spoke about Obama efforts in the pro bono legal field.  This was followed by (1) the breakout sessions for each jurisdiction and (2) at dinner, a conversation between Judge Selya and Justice Breyer.  I will devote more space to both of these presentations since the first is Maine focused and the second was very entertaining.

Maine news

Judge Lipez noted how Judge Souter, to everyone's delight, has taken to sitting on some First Circuit panels, a development about which I've written earlier. 

The newest member of the bench, Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson, will begin hearing cases in the June session. 

Judge Lipez noted that the Court had recently gone up to Maine to hear some cases.  He apologized from not giving this event more publicity, stating that it was because the whole school was attending the arguments so there wasn't a lot of room left for the public.  (Again, however, if you are a regular reader of the blog, you were informed about the event before it occurred.) 

He then provided some statistics about the number of overall appeals and appeals from Maine.  Basically, about 8% of the First Circuit's docket comes from Maine, and this percentage has held fairly steady, as has overall volume.  In 2000, there was a total of 1598 dockets overall; in 2009, 1739.  from in Maine, in 2000, there were 139 appeals; in 2009, 135.  In 2009, the breakdown for Maine was 93 civil cases and 46 civil; in 2009, it was 67 criminal and 68 civil.  

Judge Lipez then repeated some remarks about settlement counsel upon which I have also previously reported.  He noted how the counsel was willing to come to Maine or mediate by telephone, and that while some circuits had over 90% of their mediations by telephone, many more seem to settle if mediation takes place in person.  

E-filing appears to be going well, and he reminded everyone that lawyers must review and understand the teaching modules on line to register.

Judge Lipez also noted his periodic meetings with the bar in Maine, and expressed his hope that more people from up north and in criminal practice would attend.  He is willing to go to Bangor if that would up the crowd, or perhaps do a video link-in. 

Finally, and most importantly, he said some kind things about this blog.  Thank you, Judge Lipez!

Chief Judge Woodcock and Judge Hornby then followed with their reports, but this is an appellate blog, so I won't go into as much detail. Both CH Woodcock and Judge Hornby noted current dissatisfaction with the rules on summary judgment practice, and CJ Woodcock reported on the large remodeling effort that will be ongoing for the federal building in Bangor (39 months and $33 million).  The Gignoux building in Portland will also be receiving some repairs.  A pilot program for district wide scheduling in the civil area will commence so that, in the future, if you file a complaint in Portland, you won't necessarily get a Portland-based judge – but at trial (if they ever have any any more), the judge will come to Portland (the same rule applies vis-a-vis Bangor – if you file there you won't necessarily get CJ Woodcock, but if you do get Judge Singal, Hornby or the newbie, they are likely to come north for the trial.

On the bankruptcy front, Judge Haines reported something that another bankruptcy judge had told me is similar in her jurisdiction – the docket is now full of consumer bankruptcies, with a lot of the businesses done with their filings – so now there are lots of Chapter 13 and 7s, not Chapter 11s.

The remaining judge to speak, Justice Breyer, then reported that he was now the Justice taking care of this Circuit; he wants to be helpful, and so if there are any issues, let him know and he will follow up.

Finally, regarding the Breyer-Selya conversation, yes, I will report and get to his pet clam, but this entry has gotten too long, so absent some great intervening event, I wll provide the lowdown on that in my next missive.