Thanks to the weather in Boston, American Airlines is treating me to an extra night in St. Croix. If you need to be stuck somewhere, this is the place.
I was here to speak at the annual meeting of the Virgin Islands Bar Association. This was the bar’s first CLE program since instituting mandatory CLE this summer. Other speakers on legal technology issues were PDF guru David Masters from Colorado and St. Croix lawyer Andy Simpson, who offered tips on inexpensive ways to avoid costly mistakes.
Probably of greatest interest to V.I. practitioners were the series of presentations about the new V.I. Supreme Court. Until this year, appeals from here went to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. Now, appeals go to the V.I.’s own Supreme Court. Decisions of the V.I. Supreme Court can be reviewed by the 3rd Circuit only on a more limited certiorari basis. The 3rd Circuit’s certiorari power will expire after 15 years.
One of the speakers was 3rd Circuit Judge Jane R. Roth, who discussed the standards the circuit will apply. Those standards are derived largely from the precedent established by the 9th Circuit’s now-expired certiorari power over the Guam Supreme Court. All three of the V.I. Supreme Court justices also spoke: Chief Justice Rhys S. Hodge, Justice Maria M. Cabret and Justice Ive Arlington Swan. The court assumed jurisdiction last January and already has a much fuller docket than it anticipated, Chief Justice Hodge said. Justice Swan said that one minor problem the court has encountered is discovering a recusal issue after a case is scheduled for argument. Since the three justices were all formerly trial court judges, Justice Swan said it is important for lawyers to review the records carefully and point out any potential recusal issues stemming from one of the justices past involvement in a case as a trial judge.
These are significant changes for practitioners here. Their interest in understanding the changes was reflected by the large turnout — one of the most well-attended state bar events I’ve been to in some time.