We recently noticed a very interesting law review article by Marin Levy in the Duke Law Journal entitled “The Mechanics of Federal Appeals: Uniformity and Case Management in the Circuit Courts.” The premise of the article is a good one: that case management at the federal appellate courts is an often overlooked subject and one about which most practitioners, and even some judges, may not be fully aware. The article essentially defines case management as how a federal appellate court manages its docket and takes a case from the notice of appeal to the final disposition. As federal appellate dockets have swollen over the years, courts have been faced with having to resolve substantially more appeals with effectively a static level of resources. Not surprisingly, the circuits have adopted a variety of tools to facilitate the effective case management of their dockets.
In her article, Ms. Levy looks at empirical data from the D.C., First, Second, Third, and Fourth Circuits before offering conclusions based on that data. Because she did not look in the Sixth Circuit, it provides a good opportunity for us to consider the basics of case management in the Sixth Circuit. I am probably asked several dozen times each year the question of “How long does it take the Sixth Circuit to resolve an appeal?” The answer to that question is informed by a better understanding of case management at the Sixth Circuit.
For that reason, over the next several weeks, this blog will publish a series of posts following up on key points of interest in Ms. Levy’s article with an analysis of the practice in the Sixth Circuit. These posts will consider: the role of staff attorneys in the Sixth Circuit, oral argument at the Sixth Circuit, published versus unpublished opinions, the role of motions attorneys at the Sixth Circuit, the use of visiting judges at the Sixth Circuit, and the Sixth Circuit’s backlog of cases. (If any readers have any suggestions for additional topics, we certainly welcome them). Some of these topics were ones that we addressed during our recent interview with Len Green, the Sixth Circuit’s Clerk. Through this exercise, we hope to provide a bit more transparency regarding how the Sixth Circuit deals with case administration, which should enable parties and lawyers alike to get a better sense of how their cases will be likely to proceed.