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Leaving well enough alone

Once you’ve been granted a writ from the Supreme Court, don’t change the wording of the assignments of error in your next round of briefing. That’s the clear message from the high court, which dismissed four of five assignments in an appeal because a lawyer tried to reword them.

It’s hard to make but so much out of an unpublished four-sentence order from the Supreme Court of Virginia, but this one knocked out 80 percent of an appeal.

The order doesn’t reflect precisely what the changes were, but they prompted the appellee to file a motion to strike the assignments of error because they differed from those in the petition that was granted.

The court agreed with the appellee that the changes were indeed substantive. The appellant apparently realized the mistake; it asked for leave to file a corrected opening brief.

No luck, the court said. “Appellant’s motion to file a corrected Opening Brief is denied,” and all that’s left is the one assignment.

The principal dispute in Landrum v. Chippenham and Johnston-Willis Medical Centers is whether a Richmond circuit judge properly granted summary judgment after he struck a designation of an expert witness because it was signed by out-of-state counsel rather than a lawyer licensed to practice in Virginia.

Appellate specialist Steve Emmert has an extensive analysis of what the order might mean on his blog.

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