Judge Frank Easterbrook of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit prefers the element of surprise. At least for oral arguments.OK, OK, it's a slow news day. But not as slow as the Herald, which is covering how bad traffic is on the front page.
The Seventh Circuit, based in Chicago, doesn't reveal the identities of the judges assigned to a case until the morning of oral arguments. Lawyers, Easterbrook said, should "prepare to face the circuit as a whole."
"Even with this policy, many lawyers try to make judge-specific arguments ('You wrote the opinion that said…') and have to be reminded that opinions speak for the court, not for their authors," the judge said in an email to The National Law Journal. "Ad hominem arguments are out of place."
The Seventh Circuit is in the minority. Of the 13 federal appeals courts, only three — the Fourth, Seventh and Federal circuits — wait to disclose the three judges assigned to a case on the day it is argued. The other circuits reveal their panels days or weeks in advance.
In the First Circuit in Boston, lawyers get a week's notice. In the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis, one month. The D.C. Circuit, until recently, had the most generous policy: The court announced the panel when it set a date for arguments — several months ahead of the hearing. Last year, the court switched to notifying counsel 30 days out. It formalized the change this month in its handbook.
If you are looking for something to watch, check out the new movie by Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman, Dawg Fight, which is now on Netflix. The Hollywood Reporter covers it:
Dawg Fight, director Billy Corben’s new film about the backyard bare-knuckle fight scene, debuts on Netflix this weekend. But for Corben and his producing partner Alfred Spellman, best known for their 2006 doc Cocaine Cowboys, an online bow proved the right fit for their particular brand of street-smart filmmaking.
“As we started looking at how we wanted to release it, theatrical was just not a very appealing option,” says Spellman, who along with Corben founded their Rakontur banner in 2000. Explains Corben, “The whole purpose of this subculture is these guys uploading this footage to the Internet. So the audience for this type of content is already on line — the gamer crowd, the fight fan crowd. So it seemed just kind of obvious to go where they were.”
Since first meeting up in high school more than 15 years ago, Corben and Spellman have forged a unique career by focusing on what Carben admits is often “more pulpy, pop-culture-oriented subject matter” and then riding the successive waves through which such movies have been delivered to eager audiences. “We’ve watched the business shift now through four incarnations,” says Spellman. “We started out going to Sundance. At Sundance, we realized your audience is the seven or eight people who are the acquisition execs. And then we went through the DVD boom, catching the last wave with Cocaine Cowboys. After the recession and the technological upheaval, we did a lot of TV commissions — we’ve done now three 30 for 30s for ESPN and a four-hour miniseries for VH1.” And with Dawg Fight, they’ve moved on to streaming-on-demand. “We’ve kind of been early adopters in figuring out new media trends, some that work out and some that don’t,” adds Corben.