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Pre-Argument Conference Program in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals: An Evaluation

NCJ Number
J B Eaglin
Date Published
86 pages
This study examines whether the Sixth Circuit Court's preargument conference is meeting its stated objectives of saving judges time by facilitating settlement and early termination of cases without judicial involvement, lessening case-management burdens by clarifying procedural matters, and simplifying and clarifying issues on appeal.
Under the program, attorneys on the court staff conduct conferences, generally by telephone, with the attorneys in most civil appeals to explore settlement possibilities, resolve procedural issues, and clarify issues in the appeal. Under the evaluation design, two groups were randomly drawn from the cases typically eligible for preargument conferences. The treatment group involved the cases to be conferenced and a control group that did not have conferences. The case selection began in March 1985 and ended when there were approximately 1,500 cases in the study. The evaluation found that whereas 69 percent of the conference-eligible appeals in the control group reached argument or submission, only 57 percent of those in the conference group reached this stage. This savings translated into the work of 1.06 appellate judges. The findings did not indicate which types of cases tend to be more amenable to settlement. When a treatment case did not settle but went on for a judicial decision, briefing was delayed in 50 percent of those cases compared with 5 percent of the control group cases that required a judicial decision. The data indicate that the program does terminate more cases at an earlier stage of the appellate process. There is strong support among the bar for the program. 17 tables and appended evaluation design and preargument conference documents