I was sitting in my cluttered but comfortable office, preparing for what would ultimately be my last hearing as a lawyer, when the phone rang. On the other end of the line was Governor Sonny Perdue's executive assistant: "Mr. Dillard, do you have time to speak with the governor?" I did, of course. And less than two weeks after that brief but life-changing conversation with Governor Perdue, I was one of Georgia's two newlyappointed appellate judges (and the seventy-third judge to serve on the court of appeals since 1906).
Over six years have passed now, and during that time a great deal has changed at the court of appeals. Indeed, after spending less than two months as the junior judge, five additional judges were either elected or appointed to the court in just over two years. 2 Then, in April 2015, the Georgia General Assembly enacted legislation (House Bill 279)3 expanding the court of appeals from twelve to fifteen judges (as of January 1, 2016),4 which Governor Deal signed into law just a few weeks later.5 In other words, more than half of the court of appeals turned over in a very short period of time; and this has undeniably impacted the nature and personality of the court in a number of ways. But one constant remains: Much of what we do as appellate judges on the court of appeals is shrouded in mystery. I am not entirely certain why this is the case. It could be that (until recently) the culture of the court over the years has been for the judges to be fairly tight-lipped about our internal operating procedures. It may also have something to do with the practice of Georgia's appellate courts hiring permanent staff attorneys. Thus, unlike the federal judiciary, we do not send a wave of law clerks out into the workforce every year with "insider knowledge." But regardless of the reasons for its enigmatic character, my hope is that this Article will continue the process of demystifying some of the inner workings of Georgia's intermediate appellate court.
This Article, then, is distinctly personal in nature. Suffice it to say, my perspective of the internal operations of the court of appeals is just that: mine and mine alone. And while I am certainly hopeful that the insights and observations I offer prove to be of some use to the bench and bar, they should in no way be understood as being universally accepted or endorsed by my distinguished colleagues. The reader should also understand that this Article is not intended to be academic or comprehensive in nature. It is meant to give practical advice to lawyers who regularly appear before the court of appeals on unique aspects of the court's internal operations, or, at the very least, provide practitioners with a useful perspective on certain practices from the viewpoint of a sitting appellate judge
Dillard, Stephen Louis A.
"Open Chambers Revisited: Demystifying the Inner Workings and Culture of the Georgia Court of Appeals,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 68:
1, Article 3.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol68/iss1/3