Let Federal District Courts Try Cases and Let the Appeals Courts Write Opinions.
It is time for the judiciary to amend Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and end the practice of permitting district courts to engage in writing opinions or memorandum of decisions. This is a time-consuming process that ends up with the district courts, magistrates and bankruptcy court judges writing opinions as if the case is already in the courts of appeals. This writing exercise is taking time away from the courts from conducting hearings and trials. Hearings and trials are the core process of these courts – not writing lengthy judicial opinions.
Here is the problem: it is more fun to write opinions. Who wants to conduct a grueling trial and deal with difficult lawyers when you can write a legal opinion in the comfort and silence of your office? It is an “intellectual feast” for some. But the dinner are litigants who are involved in enduring federal litigation with endless pre-trial order requirements that have priced these courts out of existence for many litigants. Federal courts are an expensive luxury for the rich litigant or the criminal defendant.
Texas state district court judges do not write opinions or memorandum of decisions. They announce rulings and the attorneys prepare the orders and final judgment. In a non-jury trial if a party appeals the case then they can ask for finding of fact and conclusions of law. The attorneys draft these documents and the court approve the findings and conclusions to make sure they follow the court’s ruling. This process works fine.
Here is where the change needs to be:
Federal Rule Civil Procedure 52 provides:
In General. In an action tried on the facts without a jury or with an advisory jury, the court must find the facts specially and state its conclusions of law separately. The findings and conclusions may be stated on the record after the close of the evidence or may appear in an opinion or a memorandum of decision filed by the court. Judgment must be entered under Rule 58.
In General. In an action tried on the facts without a jury or with an advisory jury, the court must announce on the record its findings of fact and state its conclusions of law separately on the record after the close of the evidence. The court shall not write an opinion or memorandum of decision. In case of an appeal the court shall reduce the findings of fact and conclusions in an opinion or a memorandum of decision filed by the court. Judgment must be entered under Rule 58.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 214-706-9195 if you would like to discuss this.