On February 14, this blog reported on an article documenting a substantial decline in oral arguments in appeals before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The statistics reported in that article were current through September 30, 2011. Meanwhile, statistics through September 30, 2012 have been published, and can be viewed here. Those figures show that the percentage of Third Circuit appeals that were orally argued continues to drop, and that the Third Circuit has among the lowest percentages of any Circuit Court of Appeals.
At a seminar yesterday about oral arguments on motions, sponsored by the Association of the Federal Bar of New Jersey, Judge Greenaway was one of the speakers. Though the focus of the presentation was about whether more frequent oral argument of district court motions was desirable, the discussion turned to oral arguments in the Third Circuit as well. Judge Greenaway was asked whether he could discuss the criteria by which the Circuit determines whether to grant oral argument. After first answering the question with a broad smile and a simple “no,” Judge Greenaway observed, in summary, that oral argument in the Third Circuit is generally afforded in cases where the judges believe that it would be helpful. That is a fair criterion, but many practitioners believe that oral argument would be helpful in more cases than perhaps some of the judges do. It would be preferable for the decline in oral arguments to turn around.