By District Attorney Ryan Sayers
2023 Vol. 17
Over the last couple weeks, I have discussed the procedure in appellate cases and got us to the point where briefs have been submitted to the Superior Court. This week we will discuss oral argument before the Court.
After the briefs have been filed by the Commonwealth and the defendant, there are a few options for how a case can proceed from there.
The first option is that the case can be decided without the need for oral argument. This decision can either come from the Superior Court judges themselves or the Commonwealth and the defendant can agree that their briefs are sufficient and no oral argument is needed.
The other option is to have oral argument before the Superior Court. There are three types of oral argument.
The first option is an expedited oral argument before a panel of Superior Court judges. A panel of Superior Court judges is made up of three of the 15 judges on the Court, and an expedited argument provides each side with five minutes to make their points and answer the questions of the judges.
The next option is a standard oral argument before a panel of Superior Court judges. This is also before three judges, but each side has 15 minutes to make their case.
Finally, there is the possibility for an en banc review in which nine of the 15 judges hear argument on a case with each side having 15 minutes.
En banc review of a case is typically reserved for unusually complex or important cases or when a particularly significant issue is at stake.
This happens in a small number of cases and may occur either by the judges scheduling it on their own or upon a motion of either party.
Next week we will go into a discussion about decisions by the Superior Court and the next steps that can be taken by either party.
Ryan Sayers is the elected District Attorney of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.
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