In my last post, I discussed the opportunities that will allow the smart appellate litigator to shave months off the time necessary to conclude a basic appeal, from start to finish, in the Oregon Court of Appeals. In this post, I discuss a few more time-consuming events that are less common, but may still be anticipated as part of a larger, time-saving strategy, as follows:
Consolidation of two appeals
Occasionally, the litigants may be litigating two cases, having similar issues, that are going up on appeal separately. Or, there may be an appeal from a Limited Judgment entered before trial, and then a second appeal from the General Judgment entered after trial. In either case, it is often desirable for reasons of “judicial economy,” to consolidate the appeals, to save time.
Sometimes, when two appeals are consolidated, they are simply assigned the same briefing schedule and oral argument schedule. In other words, the two appeals “travel together.” Other times, the two appeals are in fact consolidated into one appeal, sharing common briefing, and creating an appellant and cross-appellant situation. Either way, the consolidation of two appeals requires the filing of a motion (which requires experienced legal judgment), and an order by the Court of Appeals.
One way to save more time is to file a joint motion to consolidate (i.e., a motion by both parties, without objection from any party). While it may take time to negotiate the terms of the joint motion, a joint motion eliminates any dispute between the parties that would requiring resolution by the Court of Appeals, thus saving time-to-ruling, although a joint motion may still be denied.
Another way to save still time, is to file the joint motion to consolidate early, while preparation of the transcript and/or opening brief is underway. This approach means that the time consumed by the Court of Appeals to decide the motion will run concurrently with other necessary work, so the motion does not require any additional time. Conversely, if you really want to slow things down, wait until all the work is done before filing the motion to consolidate. The motion may still be granted, but now everybody is waiting for the motion to be decided by the Court of Appeals, before the next step may be taken, for example, scheduling oral argument.
Correcting the trial court record
Throughout the course of litigation, each party maintains a copy of the trial court’s file and, on appeal, each party relies upon their file to get their work done, rarely knowing or suspecting that the trial court’s file – which is the all important record on appeal – is incomplete. If the trial court’s file is incomplete, the record on appeal is incomplete. If this problem is present, it is usually not discovered until very late in the process, and the time necessary to correct the trial court’s file may take a month or two, or even longer, if the parties dispute what is necessary or permissible to correct the trial court’s file. Although an incomplete trial court file is an uncommon occurrence, if you would rather be safe than sorry, this potential delay can be avoided by taking a trip to the courthouse early on, to inspect the trial court’s file. This way, any necessary corrections can be made early on, concurrent with other work, saving much time later on.
As you can see from the above discussion, it is possible to anticipate even the unusual events that may delay an appeal by several months, and to eliminate those occurrences before the delay is unavoidable. It is not always easy to do, however, and expediting an appeal may be counter intuitive. We have all become accustomed to waiting for deadlines, and following the prescribed or expected path. Your appeals lawyer will need to be both experienced and proactive, but in the right case, expediting an appeal can be highly desirable, and it will almost always save money under the theory that the longer litigation lasts, the more it will cost.