Group Processes

Group Processes in the United States

Methods of decision making used by multi-judge appellate courts. Unlike trial courts, appeals courts act in groups. This influences not only the decision, but the way in which those decisions are made. Intermediate appeals courts typically act in groups or panels of three, while courts of last resort usually sit en banc. That means the entire membership of a particular court participates, commonly seven or nine. The principal device of group decision making is the conference. It is here that a court seeks consensus in an effort to enhance the prospects of full compliance. The judges discuss the cases and the arguments submitted on behalf of both parties. In appeals courts with discretionary jurisdiction, the conference is also the place where decisions about which cases to review are made. The judges also hear oral arguments as a group and interact with one another on a regular basis with respect to the content of the opinions that accompany decisions. It is through these various interactions that judges attempt to convince their colleagues to join them, especially in cases where major policy issues are under review, such as abortion regulation or the Exclusionary Rule (Apellate Judicial Process).

See Also

Conference (Apellate Judicial Process).

Analysis and Relevance

Group processes are one of the key influences on appellate court decision making. While these processes are not as determining as personal value orientations, the group processes create opportunities for judicial interaction. Judges have a dual interest in pursuing policy priorities and achieving consensus, and group processes facilitate the negotiation and compromise needed to reach those ends. Between the time a case is accepted for review and the time a decision is announced, several months will pass and a number of interactions will occur. Several will occur at formal conferences, where each judge or justice will offer his or her views and ultimately cast a vote. Draft opinions representing both the tentative majority statement and individual views will be circulated and memos exchanged. Over the course of these interactions, positions may alter the initial voting alignment. The impact of group processes varies by court, but these processes always tend to create issue dynamics that impact on appellate court decision making.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Group Processes from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Group Processes: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Group Processes. This part provides references, in relation to Group Processes, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Group Processes by content types:

Laws and Regulations

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 Group Processes 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 Group Processes 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 Group Processes 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 Group Processes. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Group Processes 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 Group Processes when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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