The Arkansas Supreme Court is not issuing formal opinions yet. The Court did issue a couple of per curiam opinions yesterday, but nothing that sets any precedent.
The Supreme Court has set an expedited briefing schedule for the Casino Amendment Ballot Title Case. Ballot title cases have to be done in an expedited manner since we have elections coming up.
The Court of Appeals issued twenty-two opinions on Wednesday. Most of them appear to be criminal appeals and termination of parental rights cases. As is typical when the Court reconvenes, many of the cases were "no-merit" cases. When a lawyer represents a client and loses in the court below, the lawyer sometimes has a duty to either appeal the case or to explain why the case should not be appealed. This is particularly true in criminal cases and termination of parental rights. It is the duty of the lawyer to go through the record and note every unfavorable ruling. Then the lawyer must explain why the unfavorable ruling was not error on the part of the judge or why, if it was, it cannot serve as a ground for reversal. When the client is served with the no-merit brief, the client has an opportunity to state grounds of his or her own.
A lawyer filing a no-merit brief must be careful to take note of any adverse rulings at trial. Sometimes those rulings can sneak up on a lawyer. For instance, when the trial judge imposes an illegal condition on a sentence, that is error that must be addressed. That is because there are some decisions that are left to the Department of Corrections, and the judge may usurp the authority of the Department of Corrections by requiring certain rehabilitative treatment. Frequently this makes no practical difference. The Department of Corrections will often impose identical conditions in the exercise of its discretion. But the Court requires lawyers to scrutinize sentences to make sure the trial judge has not gone beyond his or her authority to sentence defendants.
It seems strange for a lawyer to file a brief against his or her client's interest, but sometimes that can be required by the law. The lawyer has conflicting responsibilities. One is to his or her client. The other is not to file frivolous appeals or pleadings. The only way that can be solved is by no merit briefs accompanied by a motion to withdraw.
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