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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How about an appellate opinion with that cup of coffee?

It used to be like clockwork. Go grab a bite to eat for lunch, come back to the office and find out how your case did on appeal. Both state appellate courts would release their week's opinions at exactly 1:00 p.m. (Tuesdays for the Court of Appeals, Thursdays for the Supreme Court.)

But, as Minnesota Lawyer reports this week, all that recently changed thanks to those ink-stained wretches who make up the Fourth Estate. (Since journalists don't really use ink now, perhaps I should keyboard-clicking wretches.)

Effective Dec. 11, the appellate courts started releasing the week's opinions at 10:00 a.m., barely giving lawyers time for a cup of coffee and a scone before getting the good or bad news about their case. (The release days stayed the same.)

"It was really a courtesy to the press, so they have a little more time during the day to prepare their story," clerk of the appellate courts Fred Grittner told Minnesota Lawyer.

Meanwhile, appellate lawyers are happy to get the results sooner too. "Once you know [your decision] is coming out, the longer you have to wait, the more painful it is," said Minneapolis attorney Bill Hart.

It's good to see the courts being media-friendly. It will be interesting to see if the media returns the favor by using that time to make the reports on decisions more comprehensive and fair.

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