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Federal Circuit converges on Indianapolis

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has kept up with a trend of publishing more written opinions than any other federal court, and one of the most significant happenings in the past year is the recent resurrection of inviting lower trial judges to sit by designation on appeals panels.

Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook offered those two points to hundreds of his colleagues within the federal legal community who are gathered in Indianapolis for the annual meeting of the 7th Circuit Bar Association and Judicial Conference. The two-day event rotates locations each year and comes to Indiana once every four years.

The business portions are today and Tuesday at the Westin Hotel, with panel discussions focusing on legal writing, caselaw about non-scientific evidence, attorney-client privilege in government investigations, e-communication security and privacy, civil discovery, victims' rights, patent litigation, and a look at the Midwest economy.

During his annual State of the Circuit address at a luncheon this afternoon, Chief Judge Easterbrook highlighted his decision in January to start inviting District judges to sit by designation at the 7th Circuit - a policy that hasn't been used for about 15 years. He plans to start inviting more judges later this year.

Overall, caseloads in the Circuit remain steady and saw an 8 percent increase last year, the chief judge said. The 7th Circuit continues standing out in that it publishes written opinions in 51 percent of its decisions, compared to 19 percent nationally - 693 were published last year, he said.

This coming year could present challenges in that the entire Western District of Wisconsin will see a complete turnover of judges, and the Southern District of Indiana may have two vacancies to fill simultaneously - that of Judge David F. Hamilton who's been nominated for the 7th Circuit, and Judge Larry McKinney who takes senior status in July.

Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard spoke briefly about how state courts continue working with the federal system to improve the nation's courts from within, and also about his work on a panel analyzing the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Justice John Paul Stevens, the Circuit's representative for the U.S. Supreme Court, is a keynote speaker at a dinner reception this evening. Rev. David Link, former dean of Notre Dame Law School for 24 years, is receiving the American Inns of Court's 2009 Professionalism Award for the Seventh Circuit, which is given to a senior judge or lawyer whose life and practice displays "sterling character and unquestioned integrity, coupled with dedication to the highest standards of the legal profession."

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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