Abbreviated Procedures

Abbreviated Procedures in the United States

Methods used to expedite disposition of cases at the appellate level. Abbreviated or shortened procedures are designed to move some cases through the steps more quickly or eliminate some of the steps altogether. Giving certain cases less than the “full treatment” requires the screening of incoming cases. Courts that use abbreviated procedures depend on support staff to do this preliminary screening and review. Once it has been determined that a case does not require full review, a court may limit or dispense with oral arguments, for example, and decide cases on the basis of the initial petition and supporting briefs. Similarly, an appellate court may be able to decide certain cases immediately after oral argument and without group discussion in conference. In some cases, a court may choose to adopt the recommendation from the staff as to disposition. Courts may also expedite the process by announcing outcomes unaccompanied by written opinions. Indeed, many appeals courts issue full opinions in less than half of their cases.

See Also

Mandatory Jurisdiction (Apellate Judicial Process), 275.

Analysis and Relevance

Abbreviated procedures are largely used by appellate courts having Mandatory Jurisdiction (see entry). These are the courts, commonly at the first level of a two-level appellate structure, that must decide all cases that are filed. As a result, they are more vulnerable to the pressures of high case volume. Abbreviated procedures allow these courts to process some cases more quickly. The technique clearly heightens efficiency. Courts that employ abbreviated procedures increase productivity as measured by cases disposed. There is a possible qualitative downside, however. Cases categorized as those not needing full review remain with staff for a least a preliminary decision in the form of a recommendation. This makes it probable that a case will be treated as “unimportant;” that the appellant’s case is “weak.” If this occurs, the integrity of the appellate process is dimin-ished. Finally, the same case volume pressure that prompts use of ab-breviated procedures also creates pressures on appellate judges to defer to staff judgments. In the face of burdensome caseloads, judges may not wish to closely scrutinize staff screening because to disagree with the staff judgment is to increase the number of cases needing full review. Questions about judicial control and independence are raised in such situations.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Abbreviated Procedures from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Abbreviated Procedures: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

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Federal primary materials about Abbreviated Procedures by content types:

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US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Abbreviated Procedures and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Abbreviated Procedures or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Abbreviated Procedures and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Abbreviated Procedures. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Abbreviated Procedures should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Abbreviated Procedures when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

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