Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Schurtz v. Ryan (9th Cir. - Sept. 12, 2013)

The thing about three-day holidays is that, in the court system, they often turn into four- or five.  Often there are no (or few) published opinions the Friday before the holiday.  People looking to get out early -- if they haven't already -- either physically or psychologically.  Then, on Tuesday, it's slow to pick up as well.

Like today.  Nothing yet from the California Court of Appeal.  And nothing from the Ninth Circuit.

So let's look at a classic archetype from a tiny little bit ago.

This opinion is about what you'd expect from Judge Kozinski.  It doesn't find petitioner's claims persuasive.  At all.  The opinion is short -- six pages -- and dismissive.  It's clearly an "easy" case.

It's a death penalty case, mind you.  But when you read the opinion, it's crystal clear that Judge Kozinski thinks that there's so little there that it's not even worth discussing.

Which is fine.  Personally, I might go into a little more depth when someone's life is on the line.  But if Judge Kozinski thinks that the result here is so crystal clear -- that the omitted evidence was so clearly cumulative -- that it doesn't even require extended discussion, so be it.  His right.

Given the brevity and dismissiveness of the opinion, however, what I don't understand is why it took nearly a year and a half after oral argument to crank the thing out.

I could have written the thing in two hours.  Even without a bench memo.  Not hard.

I'll also mention that the appeal begins with the number 07-.  Which means it took six years to get decided.  By the way, the district court number begins with 97-.  So add another decade.

And that's all after the conclusion of all the state proceedings.  Add another indeterminate -- and definitely not short -- period of time.

All for something that's so facile that one can write a cursory six-page opinion that says that the case is totally easy.

I wish I could say this is a misplaced case of the perfect being the enemy of the good.

But it's not.