The Court of Appeals of Virginia recently handed down its opinion in Tatusko v. Commonwealth, 79 Va. App. 721 (2024). It’s a reckless-driving case where the defendant was clocked doing 103 in a 60 mph zone. Tatusko doesn’t strike me as especially interesting on the merits; many of the issues raised were discretionary rulings, and none of them really move me.

But here’s the thing: The case had 18 assignments of error. Eighteen! Is it even possible to get that many important things wrong in a speeding case?*

Judging from Tatusko, no. It is not. More important for our appellate purposes, though, the CAV was super impressed with the volume of assignments of error. Here’s the first paragraph of the opinion:

Appellate courts have sometimes lamented that “the number of claims raised in an appeal is usually in inverse proportion to their merit.” Commonwealth v. Ellis, 534 Pa. 176, 626 A.2d 1137, 1140 (Pa. 1993). As Judge Kethledge observed, “When a party comes to us with nine grounds for reversing the [trial] court, that usually means there are none.” Fifth Third Mortg. Co. v. Chi. Title Ins., 692 F.3d 507, 509 (6th Cir. 2012). Those predictions have been borne out here. Konradt Tatusko assigns 18 errors to his reckless-driving conviction. Finding that none has merit, we affirm the judgment below.

(More cases should cite Kethledge opinions.) The CAV also offered this advice to practitioners:

“While criminal defendants often believe that the best way to pursue their appeals is by raising the greatest number of issues, actually, the opposite is true: selecting the few most important issues succinctly stated presents the greatest likelihood of success.” Ellis, 626 A.2d at 1140. We recognize that criminal defendants may sometimes insist that their lawyers raise as many arguments as possible, including arguments that, even though not frivolous, have virtually no chance of succeeding. But as we have noted, “‘[w]hile “the accused has the ultimate authority” to decide whether to “take an appeal,” the choice of . . . arguments to make within that appeal belongs to appellate counsel.'” Hammer v. Commonwealth, 74 Va. App. 225, 242, 867 S.E.2d 505 (2022) (quoting Garza v. Idaho, 139 S. Ct. 738, 746, 203 L. Ed. 2d 77 (2019)). “Experienced advocates since time beyond memory have emphasized the importance of winnowing out weaker arguments on appeal.” Id. (quoting Jones v. Barnes, 463 U.S. 745, 751, 103 S. Ct. 3308, 77 L. Ed. 2d 987 (1987)).

Anyway, recommended throughout. If you only read one reckless-driving case this year, this should be it.

*Assuming, of course, that you are working in good faith. If you are the sort of evil mastermind judge who inhabits law-school thought experiments, then of course you can get more than 18 things wrong as you work to defeat the cause of justice. But if you are just a normal judge trying to do the right thing–you know, the sort of jurists Court of Appeals judges deal with in real life–I’m not sure you can miss the boat this badly.