Federal appellate jurisdiction in abstention cases

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d), “An order remanding a case to the State court from which it was removed is not reviewable on appeal or otherwise ....” Let’s say that plaintiff sues defendant in Louisiana state court, the defendant removes the case to federal court, and the plaintiff moves for remand. The district court finds that it has subject-matter jurisdiction, but it grants the remand anyway by applying an abstention doctrine (in this instance, Burford). The defendant appeals. Does the U.S. Fifth Circuit have appellate jurisdiction to review the abstention-based remand?

According to a decision released yesterday, the answer to the appellate-jurisdiction question is “yes.” Grace Ranch, LLC v. BP America Production Co., No. 20-30224, at 10–14 (5th Cir. Feb. 24, 2021). The Fifth Circuit concluded that the barring of review under § 1447(d) applies only to removals described in § 1447(c), namely remands for defects in the removal procedure or for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Since a remand based on abstention fits neither category, it can be reviewed.

Feb. 17 court closures

The Louisiana Supreme Court and several courts of appeal are closed today because of the cold weather and related problems (dangerous traveling conditions, loss of electricity). Follow these links to orders or announcements of court closures

I haven’t seen any announcement yet from the Louisiana Fourth or Fifth Circuit. But according to the Louisiana Supreme Court’s announcement, “the Commissioner of Administration announcing that state offices will be closed statewide Wednesday, February 17th.”

Court closures for weather, Lundi Gras, or Presidents’ Day

Here are some court closures to pass along:


p.s. This afternoon, the Louisiana Second Circuit issued another order. This one extends the weather-related closure through tomorrow, February 16, reopening on February 17. To view or download a cop of this order, follow this link.

Appellate CLE offered by the New Orleans Bar Association

If you’re looking for appellate CLE, the New Orleans Bar Association has an inexpensive offering for you: a one-hour discussion of appellate practice with a pair of Louisiana chief judges: Chief Judge McKay of the Fourth Circuit and Chief Judge Chehardy of the Fifth Circuit. Attorneys Kelly Becker and Leigh Ann Schell will moderate. It’s only $20 for NOBA members and $40 for non-members. It’s going to be a Zoom webinar, so no travel time or expenses. For more information or to register, follow this link.

Reading recommendations for 2021

I’m starting the new year by reading Advanced Legal Writing: Theories and Strategies in Persuasive Writing by Michael R. Smith (2d ed. 2008). There’s actually a third edition out now, but it’s pricey. So I’m reading a “used” copy of the second edition that I picked up for $14. (Used is in quotation marks because it arrived in mint condition.) I’ve read enough of it to recommend it and to add it to the book list on the right side of this blog. The author, Professor Smith, believes the same things I do about persuasive legal writing: he bases his recommendations on classical rhetoric (logos, pathos, and ethos) and modern science, including cognitive psychology and linguistics. I’m only about 100 pages into it, and I’ve already learned some things I can apply to my next brief.

Next on my reading list is A Clearing in the Forest by Steven L. Winter (2001). I’ve been reading a lot lately about metaphor, including metaphor in legal writing.* Everything I’ve read about metaphor that’s been published since 2001 cites this book as the definitive study of metaphor in legal writing. Like any good researching lawyer, I like to go to the source.

A question and a challenge: What are you doing in 2021 to improve your writing skills?


James Geary, I Is an Other (2011); George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (1980, afterword 2003).

Shortcuts for typing a § and a ¶

If you’re using Windows, you can type a section sign (§) or a pilcrow (¶) in any Windows application, including Word, using your numeric keypad. Here’s how.

First, make sure your Num Lock is on; that’s the key in the upper left corner of your numeric keypad. Most keypads have a little light indicated whether Num Lock is on or off.

To type the section sign, hold down the Alt key and press 0167 in sequence. In Word, you may have to hit space bar or another key before the symbol appears.

To type a pilcrow or paragraph sign, hold down the Alt key and press 0182 in sequence.

There are other Alt codes for dozens of typographic symbols that you won’t find on your keyboard. They work the same way: with Num Lock on, hold down Alt and press four numbers. To find those numeric codes, check out this web page by some folks at Penn State.

Amendments to federal rules effective Dec. 1

Yesterday, December 1, was the effective date for amendments to federal rules of practice, including the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. The FRAP amendments are minor and concern only responses to petitions for en banc hearing or rehearing and petitions for panel rehearing. Under the new rules, responses are subject to the same length limits as the petitions: 3,900 words if produced by computer and 15 pages if handwritten or typewritten. To download a copy of the FRAP amendments, follow this link.

For information about amendments to other sets of federal rules, follow this link.