Last week I blogged about the Fourth Circuit’s recent published opinions that, due to the pandemic-prompted suspension of Local Rule 36(a), did not have the usual oral argument. The research for that post revealed that almost every conceivable “type” of opinion had been issued under Standing Order 20-1: civil opinions, criminal opinions, immigration opinions, opinions fully affirming the lower court, opinions fully reversing the lower court, opinions partially affirming and partially reversing, opinions with dissents, opinions with concurrences. You name it, we saw it. Today, however, the Court released a published opinion after submission on the briefs that we hadn’t yet seen. In an asbestos litigation out of the Middle District of North Carolina, a panel of Judges Agee, Wynn, and Quattlebaum affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to one of the defendants by per curiam opinion.(fn) While I don’t (yet, anyways) have the numbers to back this up, my suspicion is that per curiam published opinions in the Fourth Circuit are relatively rare. Depending on how long Standing Order 20-1 remains in effect, it may very well be that this opinion ultimately stands alone as the only one of its kind.
fn: Due to the lack of any significantly educational or humorous footnote, one could potentially infer that Judge Quattlebaum was not the primary author of the opinion. See here.