I love the letters page of the Florida Bar News -- it's the only part of the paper where there is an actual voice or opinion being expressed amid the robo-copy of endless announcements, seminars, and proposed rule changes.
In the current issue local appellate attorney Albert W. Guffanti basically says oral arguments are a "charade":
As regards oral argument, it is my belief that most appellate panels have made their decisions prior to oral argument, reducing oral argument to a charade. Indeed, if the panel has read the briefs and researched the law (i.e., at least reviewed the law clerks’ assessments), there should be no argument, for nothing at the appellate level can change the facts of the case. Similarly, seldom does the applicable case law change just prior to oral argument, in which case a motion to supplement may be filed.He also laments the increasing reliance on PCAs:
The better practice would have the appellate court request counsel to provide additional development of a particular issue, or brief an issue not presented but of interest to the panel. The court would then receive better-researched, more thoughtful and even, perhaps, enlightened responses, something which is usually impossible at oral argument.
Also applicable here is the issue of proper use of judicial resources. If the argument that there are too many cases for appeals courts to handle adequately has any validity, then an “adequate” use of resources would result in dispensing with oral argument almost altogether, and spending that time writing opinions, instead of issuing PCAs in over 60 percent of the cases.
Our society, litigants, and our judicial system would be better served by the writing of real opinions, no matter how brief, but citing at least one authority for every issue presented.I agree with him on PCAs -- the parties deserve an explanation of the ruling, however minimal, and bedrock common law principles of "precedent" and "stare decisis" demand that we provide reasons for our decisions so that those reasons can be applied to future cases.
On oral argument I'm not so sure, what do you think?
You always like to believe your brilliant oratory and silver tongue swayed a judge's mind, but is that more vanity than reality?