The PCA Report’s Recommendations (or lack thereof)

Our last blog entry was about how the state’s Judicial Management Council established a committee to investigate the practice of deciding appeals without explanation or any written opinion, and whether the Council “stacked the deck” by splitting the committee right down the middle, with half of its members being the very DCA (district court of appeal) judges who were the people refusing to write opinions. In this installment we’ll look at the recommendations (or lack thereof) of the committee’s PCA (per curiam affirmed) Report.

After “extended discussions,” the PCA Committee made the following recommendations:

  1. Reject the abolishment of PCAs.
  2. Amend rule 9.330, Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, to allow, after a PCA, a motion to request an opinion.
  3. Develop a “suggestions for opinion writing” curriculum to be used regularly at the New Judges College and periodically at the Appellate Judges Conference as an educational tool.
  4. Reject the use of a checklist.
  5. Discourage the use of PCAs when there is a dissent in the case.
  6. Reject the requirement that PCAs be accompanied by a citation to authority.
  7. Decline to take a position on the subject of developing an alternate system of unpublished opinions as beyond its purview.

As you can see, of the 7 possible recommendations to deal with the problem of PCAs, the judge-heavy Committee rejected three outright and “declined to take a position” on a fourth. Thus the majority of possible recommendations “on the (proverbial) table” before the Committee were effectively rejected. Some of these, such as the use of a checklist on when to issue an opinion, and in particular merely requiring the citation of authority when no opinion is written, were quite simple to implement, yet nevertheless rejected.

Of the three recommendations actually made, I’ll freely admit that I have no idea of whether a judicial training “suggestions for opinion writing” curriculum was ever adopted. If it was, what I can tell you is that it does not seem to have stemmed the tide of PCAs in the slightest. Nor does the discouragement of affirming per curiam, when cases have a dissent, seemed to have had any real world effect.

This leaves the final recommendation actually adopted, the amendment of the appellate rules to specifically allow a request for an opinion. Such a rule change was eventually approved, some three years after the PCA Report. We’ll look at the rule change in our next installment.

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