Bonds appeal could take 19 months

A decision on the federal prosecutors' appeal in the Barry Bonds perjury case might not come for another year and a half, according to the official statistics of the federal courts.

The Administrative Office (AO) of the federal courts, which is the Elias Sports Bureau of the court system, says that the median time to complete an appeal in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit -- where the Bonds case appeal will be argued and decided -- is 19.4 months.

That timetable would have a decision coming down in September 2010.

Prosecutors appealed a ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston, asking the higher court to reverse the order and allow them to present at the trial three positive drug tests, drug calendars and ledgers that Illston barred as evidence. The appeal resulted in a postponement of the trial, which was to have begun with jury selection March 2.

The 9th Circuit Court, which is located in San Francisco, is the slowest of the 13 appeals courts in the system. The median time for an appeal throughout the entire system is 12.7 months.

That means the 28 judges on the 9th Circuit bench, on average, take more than 50 percent longer than their colleagues in the rest of the nation.

The fastest and most efficient operation in the system is the 4th Circuit Court, located in Richmond, Va., and home of the notorious "rocket docket" that handled the Michael Vick dogfighting case in 2007.

The median time it takes the judges in Richmond to complete an appeal is only 8.4 months, less than half the time required in San Francisco.

The prosecutors in San Francisco filed their notice of appeal on Friday, the first step in the process that is measured annually by the AO. After filing the paperwork accumulated while the case was pending before Illston, the next step in the process is a government brief that is due on June 1 of this year.

The Bonds legal team must file its brief by July 1, and the government is then permitted to file a reply brief by July 17.

Lester Munson, a Chicago lawyer and journalist who reports on investigative and legal issues in the sports industry, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.