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Are we Discussing a Unitary Court of Appeals or Not?
I very much enjoyed reading Mr. Ziff’s article on Arnold and horizontal stare decisis in the Court of Appeals [“When Precedent Lacks Power, Make the Judge Want to Decide in Your Favor,” June Bar News]. It is a helpful review of the impact of the Arnold decision. However, a more common problem for us is the prevalent belief among lawyers and judges that the Court of Appeals decisions are only binding on the trial courts that sit in the geographic division from which the decision issued. In my experience, trial courts outside of Division I seem particularly prone to this mistaken assumption that those decisions out of Division I are not binding on them. Although there is no authority for this idea, and it is contradicted by the idea of a unitary Court of Appeals, Mr. Ziff’s hypothetical to consider when “you’re in the enviable position of having a clear precedential decision from the division of the Court of Appeals that covers your superior court” suggests that a trial court doesn’t need to follow the other two divisions. If it is a unitary court, does it matter where your trial court sits? It should not, but until one of the courts speaks clearly about this problem the belief is likely to persist.
Scott Crain, Seattle
Letters to the editor published in Bar News must respond to content presented in the magazine and also comply with Washington General Rule 12.2 and Keller v. State Bar of California, 496 U.S. 1 (1990).* Bar News may limit the number of letters published based on available space in a particular issue and, if many letters are received in response to a specific piece in the magazine, may select letters that provide differing viewpoints to publish. Bar News does not publish anonymous letters or more than one letter from the same contributor per issue. All letters are subject to editing for length, clarity, civility, and grammatical accuracy.
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Furry Friends of Bar News
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