“How long will I have to wait for an appellate opinion?” “Why is the Court taking so long?” These are two of the most frequent questions I get from clients. The accurate (and unhelpful) answers are “Until the appellate court issues a decision,” “You will get an opinion when you get an opinion,” and “I don’t know.”
The Court of Appeals’ internal goal is to issue decisions within 90 days of either oral argument or the Rule 30(f) conference if oral argument is not scheduled. Former Chief Judge John Martin implemented and policed this policy while he led the Court of Appeals, and Chief Judge Linda McGee appears to be continuing this internal policy.
So how is the Court of Appeals doing in meeting its goals? Former Court of Appeals law clerk Kenzie Rakes recently determined that in 2015, the Court of Appeals took an average of 77 days to issue an opinion. Her post on the NCBA’s L3: Long Leaf Law Blog also includes a breakdown between published, unpublished, civil, criminal, Rule 3.1, and juvenile criminal appeals–as well as some standard deviation figures. (Don’t ask me what that last category means). Interestingly, Kenzie determined that civil opinions took an average of 100 days to issue in 2015 –10 days over the Court’s internal goal.
So thanks to Kenzie, next time you are asked, “How much longer,” you can give a more detailed answer than, “The Court of Appeals’ goal is 90 days.”