March 13, 2017 Articles

Going Solo: When Appellate Judges Get to Decide on Their Own

Having to make every decision by committee might get tiring, but appellate judges do get an occasional taste of solo power.

By Anna-Rose Mathieson and Ben Feuer – March 13, 2017

Trial court judges get to make their own decisions. Not so appellate judges. Three-judge panels sit at the intermediate appellate level for most federal and state courts, which means at least two judges must agree for any decision to become precedent. Even more crowd the bench at higher levels—seven on the high courts in California, Florida, and New York; nine on the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas high courts; eleven on most Ninth Circuit en banc panels; and fifteen or more judges on Fifth Circuit en banc panels.

Having to make every decision by committee might get tiring, but appellate judges do get an occasional taste of solo power. The decisions that can be made by a single judge vary from court to court, but, as a general rule, the more ministerial and procedural the issue, the more likely an individual judge will be authorized to decide it.

Premium Content For:
  • Litigation Section
Join - Now