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Federal Appellate Courts: Don’t Expect Them to Do the Right Thing

This week, we saw yet another example of a federal appellate court reversing a trial judge who tried to do the right thing. Of course, I am referring to the case out of Texas, in which the Republican controlled Texas state legislature passed a law drastically cutting back on women’s rights and women’s freedom regarding their ability to go to women’s clinics that provide women’s medical services, including abortions.

Unfortunately, the federal appellate courts in most of the circuits throughout the country are notorious for reversing courageous district court judges who render opinions that are favorable to individuals. The more Republicans who are on the various appellate courts, the more likely it is that decisions by district court judges or trial court judges that expand or protect individual rights will be reversed.The clear message to the trial judges is: follow the rules and don’t vary, whether its is on lenient sentences, upholding a constitutional right, or otherwise doing the right thing.

It is extremely unfortunate that our appellate courts, which used to lead the way in providing constitutional protections in virtually all areas of the law, now do just the opposite.

I remember in my early days as a lawyer in the 1970’s when we would look forward to reading the appellate court decisions, knowing that they would vindicate individual rights and constitutional rights. Now, it is just the opposite. We worry and are concerned about every federal court case, knowing that, for the most part, they will reverse righteous decisions of trial judges.

So, the message is this: win at the trial court level. Resolve your case as early as possible, and don’t ever expect federal appellate courts to do the fair or right thing.  This is especially true in cases involving convictions in criminal cases.