W.Va. Supreme Court wants tidier appeals
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Supreme Court says lawyers need to do their homework.
The high court issued an administrative order Monday criticizing sloppiness and frivolous appeals that include legal briefs filed without legal citations and appeals with only minimal arguments.
Chief Justice Menis Ketchum, a former trial lawyer, said the justices are wasting time trying to figure out what point lawyers are trying to make.
"There's a lot of lawyers that file a lot of good briefs," Ketchum said, "but we're just getting numerous briefs that you can't make heads or tails out of."
The justices said appeals shouldn't be filed unless a lawyer believes in good faith that a lower court committed an error.
In December 2010, the court started issuing full opinions or short memorandum decisions in every case. Since then, lawyers' use of "creative methods" to get the court to hear appeals have increased, Justice Thomas McHugh wrote in a Nov. 15 opinion.
"Nothing has changed as to the professional responsibility of lawyers to proceed only on meritorious issues," McHugh wrote.
Lawyers are supposed to include an index in often-lengthy court briefs that helps the justices and their clerks find key information in cases.
Some lawyers do this well, "but if it's all thrown in a box and we have to go through the whole box trying to figure out what they are doing, it wastes hours and hours and hours of time," Ketchum said.
Other problems cited by the justices include "rambling" arguments and the "cutting and pasting" of material from lower court filings that don't meet the higher court's standards.
The justices said lawyers could receive warnings or risk having their cases thrown out if they don't do a better job.