When I was trying to come up with a topic for the Donahue Lecture and Essay, my law clerks suggested that I focus on the unintended complications that appellate courts sometimes impose on district judges. From guest sittings on the Court of Appeals, I have learned that appellate judges approach cases and legal issues differently from trial court judges. Trial level judges have busy civil and criminal dockets to move, so we tend to favor practical—rather than elegantly theoretical—solutions to the problems we face. The practical considerations of case management, however, are not always taken into account in appellate decisions. When the rules that are handed down are difficult or time-consuming to implement, they can adversely affect the administration of justice at the nisi prius level.
We have all heard of the law of unintended consequences. More than a few recent appellate decisions have brought in their wake unanticipated (and, I am sure, unintended) consequences for the management of cases in trial courts, to the prejudice of litigants and the consternation of the judges who must put the decisions into practice. . . .
For more information about Judge McMahon’s Donahue Lecture (which served as the basis for this article) please click here.