Sometimes, a party is not satisfied with the outcome of a court case. This can present an array of options and the procedural hurdles that go with them. The dissatisfied party can ask the trial judge to set aside an order or judgment, or to alter or amend that order or judgment, or for reconsideration of the ruling, or for clarification of the ruling. Each of these has different grounds, a different procedure, and different standards, as well as different time deadlines by which it must be brought. Depending upon the type of motion made, it may or may not delay the deadline for filing a notice of appeal asking that the decision be critically reviewed by a panel of judges on a higher court called the Court of Appeals. See the Arizona Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure, Rule 9 about the appeal timeline.
Appellate courts generally do not afford you a “new” trial and will not hear new evidence that wasn’t presented to the trial court. Rather, courts of appeal review what transpired in the trial court and determine whether proper procedures were followed and the law was applied correctly. Appellate courts generally defer to the trial court or jury findings regarding factual issues, and only examine how the law was applied during the trial.
To initiate an appeal, the “appellant” – the party appealing – must file a notice of appeal in the trial court, and designate an appellate record consisting of materials from the trial court which the appellant wishes to present to the appellate court. The deadline to file a notice of appeal in state court varies, but is commonly 30 days in many jurisdictions, with some allowing 60 days. In federal cases, the notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days after the judgment is entered. Afterward, a case management statement, that gives a brief outline of the procedural history of the case and basis for the appeal, must also be filed.
Appellate cases generally involve three legal briefs, all of which must contain citations to cases and statutory or other legal authorities. Briefs must also contain proper citations to the designated appellate record. First, the appellant files an opening brief with the court of appeals. This brief must explain the factual and procedural history of the case, in a neutral fashion, and then state how the trial court erred and why the appellate court should reverse the ruling. The opposing party defending against the appeal – usually called the “appellee” – then files a responsive brief with the appellate court. Like the opening brief, this response should also neutrally explain the factual and procedural history, followed by an argument that the trial court was correct and the ruling should not be reversed. Finally, the appellant has an opportunity to file a reply brief. In the reply, the appellant can argue against the claims made in the appellee’s responsive brief but is not permitted to introduce any new legal arguments. The reply must only address statements made in the responsive brief.
The appellate court will impanel a team of judges to consider the appeal. Typically, after the briefs are filed, this panel will decide the appeal based solely on the briefs, without hearing oral argument. In some circumstances, if specifically requested by one of the parties or by the panel itself, this panel of appellate court judges will hear oral argument, a legal debate at which each side presents an explanation of the basis for their position on the appeal and may be vigorously questioned and challenged by each of the appellate judges on the panel.
It usually takes quite a few months before the appellate panel makes its determination. Its rulings are normally very detailed, outlining its objective determination of the factual and procedural history of the case being appealed, analyzing the arguments of each of the parties, and explaining the reasoning involved in its determination of the outcome of the appeal. Each separate issue raised is analyzed and determined so that sometimes the appellant prevails on some issues while the appellee prevails on others.
The appellate court’s written decision will be denoted as either a “memorandum decision” or as an “opinion”. If it is a memorandum decision, it controls the outcome of the case but usually does not set precedent and cannot be cited by other parties with other, similar legal disputes. However, at the court’s discretion, it may be decided as an opinion and become a binding authority over future cases.
If a party is dissatisfied with an appellate court ruling, there are procedures by which review can be requested from a higher court – the state supreme court. Generally, the supreme courts are not required to hear every case and may choose which matters they will decide.
Not all court rulings can be appealed. Usually, the ruling must be the final ruling on the case, although there may be some exceptions if the only issue left undecided is a claim by one party to have to pay or reimburse the other party’s attorney’s fees or costs. Sometimes, the case must be brought to conclusion after an unfavorable intermediate ruling and the notice of appeal must be filed afterward. Final rulings on contempt of court claims cannot be appealed. For these, and other non-appealable rulings, there is a procedure to pursue a case called a special action by which the actions of the trial judge are challenged, but the standards are extremely high and the court of appeals does not have to accept every case brought. In fact, it accepts only a small fraction of special action cases filed.
What happens if you are unhappy with a verdict or ruling from a trial court?
Victor Garnice possesses the experience and a comprehensive understanding of all Arizona divorce and family law-related appellate matters, including extraordinary writs, special actions, post-judgment motions, and civil appeals. We are adept at quickly understanding complex matters and work previously performed on a case by prior counsel. This allows us to focus on Arizona divorce and family law issues with topic-specific knowledge and provide quality legal services during the appellate or other review processes.
We welcome the opportunity to review potential cases and provide a substantive opinion as to the viability of bringing an appeal or another review of judicial decisions and to assess appeals or other post-trial procedures brought by the other party challenging a case outcome favorable to you. You will receive a candid, thoughtful, and objective assessment of the issues in your case and plan by which to proceed. But don’t wait. Strict time deadlines apply and if you do not initiate or respond to the other party’s appellate proceedings on time, your rights to do so could be permanently lost.
Our Arizona divorce appeals and family law appeals attorney possesses the experience and a comprehensive understanding of all Arizona divorce and family law-related appellate matters, including extraordinary writs, special actions, post-judgment motions, and civil appeals. Our firm is adept at quickly understanding complex matters and work previously performed on a case by prior counsel. This allows us to put together a team focusing on Arizona divorce and family law with topic-specific knowledge who can provide quality legal services during the appellate process.
We welcome the opportunity to review potential cases and provide a substantive opinion as to the viability of bringing an appeal. What our Arizona divorce and family law firm will provide you with is a candid, objective assessment of appealable issues in your case. We will give an unbiased opinion of the lower court record and transcripts.