A few weeks ago, we welcomed Virginia’s new justices and appellate judges with a piece about the five worst parts of Virginia law.
In hindsight, that was probably a little rude: “Welcome to your new job. Here’s why it sucks.”
To make amends, here is a list of the five best parts of Virginia law (or, maybe more precisely, practice):
- Oral Argument. The Fourth Circuit hears oral argument in roughly 1 out of every 398,734 cases. The Supreme Court of Virginia hears oral argument in every single case.
- Writ Arguments. Especially of the Traveling Variety. Even compared to a traditional oral argument, a writ argument is inherently fun; it’s a ten-minute, unopposed argument before a panel of three justices. You only have to convince one. And the numbers are such that you have a very good chance of not having to argue before one of the Scary Justices. So the baseline hedonic calculus is pretty good. The Court’s annual tradition of holding traveling writ panels–essentially bringing the appellate bench to the bar–adds to the fun, and sends a good message to us poor slobs schlepping briefs to the lectern.
- Consensus. The proliferation of separate opinions and the (ahem) range of viewpoints on SCOTUS renders some of its decisions difficult to interpret and impossible to explain to non-lawyers. One of the refreshing things about state-court practice is the degree of consensus on the SCV. When the Court issues an opinion, you can generally understand what it means without counting justices for a future hypothetical case. And when one of the SCV justices does write a separate opinion (as, for example, the Great Concurrer is wont to do) there’s usually a good reason. E.g., Evans v. Evans, 695 S.E.2d 173 (Va. 2010).
- Collegialtiy. People* seem to be meaner to me in the federal system. Couldn’t say why.
- Trials. One of the great recent themes of Virginia jurisprudence is that of a court “increasingly confronted with appeals of cases in which a trial court incorrectly has short-circuited litigation pretrial and has decided the dispute without permitting the parties to reach a trial on the merits.” Those aren’t empty words. The Court is seriously interested in seeing citizens have their day in court, and it won’t hesitate to bench-slap trial judges who are too quick to grant a demurrer, or a motion for summary judgment, or a motion to strike.
There’s plenty more I could add, like the lack of Daubert motions, or the suits-and-sneakers bar exam uniform, or the quality of donuts at the Homestead (rightful home to all important gatherings of Virginia lawyers). But this seems like a decent start.
*Not including the Fourth Circuit case managers, who are immensely patient, helpful, and nice.