How much time do I have to start an appeal?
What are the Appeals Courts and Appellate Procedure?
What decision can the appellate court make?
In addition to these different options, appeals courts often hand down decisions that combine several different rulings. A court may reverse in part and affirm in part, or it may affirm a judgment as modified by the points described in its opinion.
What does the appellate courts have the authority to decide?
Because appeals are structured in this way, it is sometimes said that the actions of the trial judge are on trial, not the actions of the parties to the original litigation.
In fact, the parties do not have a chance to re-litigate the case before the appeals court. The trial level offers the only opportunity for parties to submit evidence, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and argues the facts and the law of the case. The appeals court only considers whether the trial was conducted properly and whether the outcome was reached by proper application of the law to the facts. As noted above, the only question for an appeals court may be very specific, such as whether a particular document should have been submitted. But only issues that were raised originally in the trial court can be challenged at the appellate level.
The body of evidence, which includes the arguments, testimony, and objections considered in the trial court, is all that may be considered by the appeals panel. This body of evidence is called the record. Every piece of evidence and every argument made by the parties' lawyers are recorded into one big document, the record, which is said to "close" once the trial is over. Once the record is closed, no more evidence can be included. Also, no more objections to evidence can be made.
At the appeals level, the court is restricted to review of the record. A party cannot offer new evidence or new objections for the appellate court to consider. The age discrimination plaintiff, for example, may not ask the appellate court to overturn the decision of the trial judge based on a new document that the trial judge never saw. The trial was the only opportunity to present the document. On the other hand, the plaintiff may argue on appeal that the judge should have allowed his coworker to testify, as long as the plaintiff made that argument in his original case. He may give the appellate court an indication of what the coworker would have said, so the court can weigh whether the exclusion of the testimony was harmful to the plaintiff's case.
What are requirements for appealing a decision?
1. Finality - Not every determination made by a judge is appealable. With few exceptions, only final judgments, decisions that conclude the case in that court once and for all, are appealable. If a particular decision was not final, it is not time for an appeal.
Throughout the course of any civil trial, the trial judge may make numerous decisions. The judge may rule on a motion to limit the scope of questions that may be asked in a deposition. Or the judge may grant or deny a request that the case be dismissed on the ground that there is insufficient evidence of wrongdoing. Any court order that does not complete the case is not considered a final order. For example, if the judge denies a motion to dismiss, the proceedings will continue and the order denying the motion is considered an interim order or interlocutory order, not a final order. Generally, interim or interlocutory orders are not appealable. On the other hand, if the judge grants the motion to dismiss the case, that order is final. A decision regarding the subject matter of the case has been made: sufficient grounds do not exist for the case to continue. The final decision (also called a final disposition, final judgment, or final order) disposes of the case as far as that court is concerned.
Generally, a final decision is made after a hearing. The judge or jury has heard all the evidence, and makes a decision. A finding that the plaintiff proved or failed to prove his or her case ends the litigation at that stage. The final order is appealable.
2. Timeliness - While a final decision is appealable; the right to appeal does not last forever. Parties are bound to keep things moving along by exercising the right to appeal within a reasonable length of time after the final judgment is rendered. Similar to statutes of limitations, every court has a rule dictating the length of time after the final judgment during which an appeal may be made. For example, in the federal system, a federal district court's final decision generally must be appealed within 30 days (or 60 days if the United States or its agent or officer is a party). Otherwise, the party who wishes to appeal loses that right forever.
Sometimes, there is a question as to when the final judgment of the trial court was entered. In one employment discrimination case in which a plaintiff sought back pay and other damages, a court issued an order setting forth its findings of fact and conclusions of law and stating that judgment was for the plaintiff and against the defendant. Some months later, the court issued another order awarding back pay and a retroactive promotion. Yet another order was entered in the next month, in which the court granted the plaintiff attorney's fees and litigation expenses. A question arose about when the clock started ticking for the defendant to file a notice of appeal. Which order was the final order for purposes of appeal? The appeals court held that the last order, granting fees and expenses, was the final judgment in the case, because it dispensed with the last of the issues raised in the plaintiff's complaint.
What Is an Appeal?
Some appeals are granted only at the discretion of the appellate court. The United States Supreme Court, because it cannot review every single case decided in the federal system, hears appeals only at its discretion.
A party who has had an adverse court decision made against him or her is the party with the right to appeal. (Only under very rare circumstances can a party appeal a favorable decision on the ground that he or she disagrees with the reasoning of the decision.) The party who appeals is known as the appellant. In opposition to the appellant is the appellee, the party who agrees with the outcome of the trial and will argue during the appeal that the judge or jury's decision should be left alone.
What is Appellate Law?
An appeal typically begins with filing a notice of appeal in the trial court. The party appealing -- known as the "appellant" -- must also designate an appellate record. The appellate record consists of materials from the trial court that the appellant would like to present to the appellate court and use in appeal.