I love the Third Circuit’s court website, and I use it every day. The Third Circuit isn’t just the subject of my blog, it’s the heart of my practice, and the website is essential for keeping up to date.
Every other federal circuit has a website, too–1 2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 DC–and their sites offer some intriguing ideas for ways that the CA3 website could get even better. Other circuits–especially the Fourth and Ninth–make it easier to follow the court and to find appellate advocacy models. Here’s a quick look.
CA3 posts all its opinions, and they provide the case name, case number, and the court below. If you already know what case you’re looking for, that’s all you need. But other circuits make it easier for lawyers to find just-issued cases that matter to them without having to download and read each one. Here are the 3 best:
- CA4’s opinions page doesn’t just give the case name, it also gives a category (criminal, civil private, immigration, civil rights, habeas, 2255, etc), opinion author, and disposition;
- CA8’s lists the panel and gives a short abstract; and
- CA9’s lists the category and author and gives a useful search tool.
Also somewhat handy is the search box that both CA10 and CADC provide so you can text-search opinions (meaning you can find all circuit opinions that contain the word “Chemerinsky,” for example, right from the opinion page).
These circuits’ pages make it easier for lawyers to stay current on circuit caselaw, and that benefits everyone.
CA3 gives access to oral-argument audio, which is great and not all circuits do. But all the CA3 site tells you is the case name, number, and argument date. Again, that’s fine if you already know the exact case you want, but if you don’t then you have to go hunting on PACER.
Other circuits make browsing argument audio easier. CA4 and CADC both tell you who was on the panel and who argued. CA5 lists arguing counsel; CA8 lets you search by counsel. CA9 lists the panel. CA7 gives the case type (criminal, civil, prisoner, etc). All useful features.
The Ninth Circuit wins the technology prize: it offers argument video. It is split-screen, so you see both the panel and the lawyer, and video quality is quite good. Imagine how helpful it is for lawyers to be able to see their own arguments looking for areas to improve. And I’d love to be able to watch and learn from top CA3 advocates like Peter Goldberger or a dozen others without ever leaving my office.
The same basic observation I’ve made about opinions and argument audio applies to argument calendars, too. CA3’s calendar gives you the case name and case number. Other circuits make it easier to find cases of interest. Once again, CA4‘s and CA9‘s are the best: besides the case name and number, you get the case type, a direct link to the case on PACER, and a short description of the issues.
Links and resources
CA3 has many helpful links and resources, including forms, good brief & appendix cheat-sheets, CJA do’s and don’t’s, and a link to the circuit bar associate and its practice guide.
Three circuit cites go even further with helpful resources:
- CA4 – an appellate procedure guide, handy page-specific links to appellate rules;
- CA7 – typography guides, sample briefs, redaction guides, and a criminal appeal handbook; and
- CA9 — especially informative guides to practice, appellate jurisdiction, and standards of review, plus substantive circuit-law guides for immigration, social security, and 1983 cases.
The Third Circuit’s website is a tremendous resource for lawyers, and hopefully in the years ahead it will only get better.