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Picky, picky, picky

You really do have to sweat the small stuff when you’re a justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

We give you three examples from today’s 20-opinion drop.

Hutchins v. Talbert. Doctor loses a medical malpractice case, and the trial court enters final judgment on April 25 but suspends the order for 14 days, specifically noting that the defendant will have 35 days before an amended final order might be entered. Judge denies motion to set aside the verdict on May 28. Doctor files notice of appeal on June 19, well within 30 days from May 28.

Oops. Suspension of the order ended on May 9, and no amended final order was entered.

Date for filing notice of appeal ran from that date, so the notice of appeals had to be filed by June 9. Appeal dismissed.

Baker v. Commonwealth. Suspect runs from two of Petersburg’s finest when they investigate a report of random gunfire. Police finally tackle him in the yard of a house with “No trespassing” signs and charge him with trespassing. Open and shut case, right? Nope. Trespassing law requires proof that the sign was placed by someone with authority to prohibit entry, and the prosecution offered none.

Waller v. Commonwealth. Defendant, a felon, is caught with a shotgun, a rifle and two revolvers. He admits he’s guilty of possessing a firearm as a felon but challenges the introduction of a court record of that shows the felonies were for armed robbery, which subjects him to greater punishment. The records in question don’t have a judge’s signature on them, which leads to a discussion of the distinction between “authentication” and “certification” and a ruling that the convictions should not have been admitted to prove the enhanced offense.

By Alan Cooper

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