Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Over at The Chancery Daily, they have observed something interesting. There is has been a decline in letter opinions from the Chancery Court. I'd share some links, but The Chancery Daily is a newsletter, so you'll just have to pay for your own subscription. The Chancery Daily attributes that to the increased reliance by the courts on transcript/bench rulings. For many years the courts have admonished us all not to pay attention to transcript rulings as they do not create precedent. Sure, that makes sense if the rulings are off the cuff rulings from the bench. But as the Daily notes, there appears to be "an increasingly structured approach by the Court in rendering oral rulings, including recitations of underlying facts and explicit citation to legal authorities -- and may even resolve legal questions that are more than simply ministerial, or intended to keep litigation moving forward." So rather than being unstructured off the cuff rulings, these transcript rulings -- likely because the chancellors know that people read them carefully notwithstanding exhortations to the contrary -- are becoming more formalized with, in essence, chancellors reading formalish opinions into the record. The Daily believes the upshot of all of this is a decline in letter opinions. Twenty percent fewer by his guess. Yay for less paper. Or more paper, since it ends up printed in transcript opinions anyway. But, one has to pay for transcripts while letter opinions and memo opinions are free as part of the public record. Also, transcripts don't get hoovered up in many of the electronic legal databases. Interesting. Not entirely sure what to make of this trend, but it's worth keeping in mind.