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MSBA Appellate Practice Skills Program: July 18, 20 & 21

The MSBA, joined by the editors of the Appellate Practice for the Maryland Lawyer: State and Federal (Paul Mark Sandler, Andrew D. Levy, and Steven M. Klepper), judges of the Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals, practitioners, and representatives from the Office of the Public Defender and Office of the Attorney General, are introducing a comprehensive appellate practice skills workshop. The three-day virtual event will run on Monday July 18, Wednesday, July 20 and Thursday July 21. For a full agenda, list of presenters and registration information, click here.

Maryland Courts Spring Forward with In-Person Oral Arguments in March and New Appellate Rules for April 2022

(Update: On February 25, 2022, the Court of Appeals issued two notices regarding COVID-19 related protocols for oral arguments: (1) Protocols for oral arguments on March 3 & 4, 2022; and (2) Protocols for oral arguments on March 7 & 8, 2022).

By Michael Wein

It appears all the appellate Courts for Maryland are returning for in-person oral arguments by March 2022.  This has some déjà vu from a previous “optimistic” blog post, pre-Delta and pre-Omicron variant,  from June 2021.  There will hopefully not be any further quick and surprising Court shutdowns, as my August 2021 post relayed.  Additionally, as discussed below, new appellate Rules have been approved in the past month by the Maryland Court of Appeals, taking effect on April 1, 2022, applying to many upcoming appellate Briefs.

In-Person Oral Argument Updates

In the past few weeks, there has been an announcement of in-person orals in the following courts for Maryland practitioners:

  1. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has posted “[t]he Court will hold its March 2022 oral arguments in-person at the Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building.  Counsel in cases scheduled for March arguments will receive notice from the Clerk with oral argument protocols.”  This is after a few months of Remote arguments due to the Omicron variant.
  2. The Federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals after a few months reverting to the Zoom hearings due to Omicron, will have in-person oral arguments for their March 8-11, 2022 Session, in Richmond, Virginia.
  3. The Maryland Court of Appeals has not yet specified if their March 2022 oral arguments are to be in-person.  However, with the Friday, Feb. 18, 2022’s Orders from Chief Judge Joseph Getty, the State of Maryland is resuming Phase 5 normal operations, including jury trials on March 7, 2022.  It would thus be unsurprising if an announcement is received any day.   It is possible that some of the oral arguments scheduled from March 3 through March 8, 2022, might be done remotely via Zoom, but my anticipation, particularly with the Court of Special Appeals’ announcement, they will all be done in-person, assuming the participating attorneys have confirmed availability, are not suffering COVID-symptoms, and are properly vaccinated.
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In-Person Appellate Oral Arguments Ended Suddenly with a Bang, and are Restarting Slowly with Anticipated Full Strength in the Fall.

By: Michael Wein

What happened in March 2020 was an abrupt departure for everyone, and a surprisingly long segue from normal.  This post provides an update.   As outlined in detail in previous posts for this Blog,  the Maryland and Federal Appellate Courts (which include Maryland), suddenly postponed Oral arguments in March 2020.  They also had the unenviable task transitioning to Remote Oral Arguments for the first time.  It’s been that way for about a year.

Assuming T.S. Eliot is a legal authority (he’s not, but fun to quote) and as a matter of transitive logic, a “bang” wouldn’t signify the end of the world…only a whimper.   Thus, there will be a resumption of normal. [1]

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The Singular “They” Reaches the White House, But Not the Appellate Courts

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

Within hours of his inauguration, President Biden signed his Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation. The Executive Order began:

Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love. Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports. Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes. People should be able to access healthcare and secure a roof over their heads without being subjected to sex discrimination. All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Focus on the first sentence. It uses the singular “they,” instead of “he or she,” to refer to an indeterminate person. That’s no coincidence in an order addressing discrimination based on gender identity.

The phrase “he or she” rests on the erroneous assumption that everyone is either a “he” or a “she.” Non-binary individuals do not identify as men or women. The easy fix is to write in plain English and use the singular “they,” just like the White House does.

I’ve written on this issue before—urging judges to abandon “he or she” and expressly embrace the singular “they” (in the same way they endorsed the “cleaned up” parenthetical). My proposal made no headway, so far as I can tell. The phrase “he or she” continues to appear regularly in Maryland appellate opinions. In the words of Arlo Guthrie, however, “I’m not proud … or tired.”

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The Singular “They” in Legal Writing

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

There are few writing conventions as cumbersome as “he or she.” It’s not natural English. If you were to see the silhouette of a backlit person on the street, would you ask, “Who is he or she?” Or, like a normal person, would you ask, “Who are they?”

Nevertheless, teachers and professors drilled into me that the singular “they” was barbarism. The one exception was a common phrase like “to each their own,” because “to each his or her own” was an awkward bridge too far. “He or she” was necessary to be both inclusive and grammatically correct, even as writing otherwise moved in the direction of natural language.

This issue arises frequently in legal writing, which often involves discussions about a hypothetical individual, such as the “reasonable person.” I’ve used tricks to avoid the “he or she” problem. “If a Marylander wishes to apply for a license, he or she must first do X,” easily becomes “If Marylanders wish to apply for licenses, they must first do X.” But that work-around can be awkward, especially when overused.

It’s also a cop out. My family (traditional and chosen) includes non-binary people who use they/them pronouns. It’s important to non-binary people that we use their correct pronouns. It can cause them genuine distress to insist on using binary pronouns.

I’m sure some will read this post and cry “political correctness!” When it comes to legal writing, however, it’s a matter of legal correctness. Read More…

What Kim Kardashian and Prince William Can Teach Us About Remote Oral Arguments

By Derek Stikeleather

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us all innumerable “new normals.” Even appellate practitioners, whom the Daily Record recently described as “relatively unscathed” by the pandemic, have had to change how they conduct business. This is especially so when it comes time to present oral arguments. Read More…

Facing Type: A Tour of the Court of Appeals’ List of Suggested Fonts for Briefs

By John Grimm

The Daily Record recently informed me that the Governor’s stay at home order has left appellate lawyers “generally unscathed.”[1]  “Indeed,” I thought to myself, while downstairs my eleven-month-old patiently waited a full workday as I edited a brief.  Actually, working from home has left at least this appellate lawyer a bit scathed, so I’ve had little time to study the appellate news lately.  And what news there is seems to be all about courts’ new emergency procedures anyway, so in this post, I am going to address a topic that is irrelevant to current events, but which is a preoccupation for many appellate lawyers: typography. Read More…

COSA Spotlight: Judge Daniel A. Friedman

By: Derek Stikeleather

In May, Blog Editor Derek Stikeleather sat down with Judge Daniel A. Friedman of the Court of Special Appeals (At-Large), to ask about his background, his chambers and law clerks, and how he prepares for oral arguments and writes his opinions.

 What has best prepared you for your work as a judge on the Court of Special Appeals?

Three sources of my background practice prepared me for judging. I was a “big-firm” private civil litigator at Miles & Stockbridge and at Saul Ewing. I did public/government litigation both at the Baltimore City Solicitor’s Office and for the Maryland Attorney General. These two types of work required different expertise, both of which are helpful now. On the academic side, I focused on teaching and writing about constitutional law at the University of Maryland School of Law. These three branches of my legal experience each developed different parts of my foundation as a judge, but none of the three was more important than the others.

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Dos and Don’ts When You Learn Who Is on Your Court of Special Appeals Panel

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

Few Maryland lawyers are accustomed to advance notice of which judges will be deciding their appeal. The Fourth Circuit and the Court of Special Appeals have traditionally kept the identities of three-judgment panels secret until the morning of argument. But the Court of Special Appeals will now be announcing panels 7 to 10 days before argument.

That lead time gives counsel an opportunity to make productive or counter-productive use of that information. In this post, I address what you must do, should do, and should not do when you learn who is on your three-judge panel. Read More…

Thank You for Writing Dissents

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

At this year’s bar convention, I took the opportunity to thank Senior Judge Irma Raker for something she did 12 years ago. When I lost the first Court of Appeals case that I argued, Judge Raker wrote a short solo dissent. It meant a lot to me as a young associate, having entered argument feeling like I would win, to know I’d convinced at least one judge.

There are a many different reasons why appellate judges write dissents or refrain from writing them. From a private practitioner’s standpoint, I tell judges that dissents are a powerful way to improve attorney-client relationships. Read More…