What do Appellate Courts Do?

Taking the show on the road is a good way to help answer that question. Some states broadcast oral arguments on the web. We don’t do that, but having oral argument in front of a bunch of students is still a good idea. I think it does two things.

First, it gives folks a chance to see that, contrary to the rhetoric spouted by mini-Moore and his kind, being an appellate judge is a pretty mundane affair. The two cases being argued at Samford involve contract interpretation and time keeping issues. Maybe that somehow also implicates the cosmic battle between good and evil in which mini-Moore is the courageous leader of the god-fearing, secular humanist destroying, family values loving people of Alabama. But probably not.

Second, these two cases also reveal how a judge’s beliefs can impact a decision. The timing issue, for instance, is a frequent question in lawsuits: Does the statute of limitations start to run when the injury occurs? Or when the victim discovers the injury? There are good arguments either way, which is why the issue has made it to the state supreme court. You can boil it down to whether you want businesses to run smoothly without constantly fearing lawsuits, or whether you want to protect an injured person’s ability to recover. A pro-business judge will tend to favor the former, a pro-people judge the latter.

In short, appellate judge’s opinions do matter, but not in the way mini-Moore wants you to believe. That a judge told St. Roy to get rid of the rock might have drawn the ire of the almighty, but it did not impact anyone’s day to day life. On the other hand, little decisions like starting the clock with the injury rather than the discovery probably won’t attract any special heavenly attention, but they can leave a lot of people injured without a remedy.

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