Not all trial court decisions are appealable. Generally, only a “final judgment” is appealable from the trial court to the court of appeal. However, as prescribed by specific statutes, there are some interim or interlocutory trial court orders that are deemed immediately appealable. (It goes without saying that “non-appealable” orders cannot be appealed in the normal sense, but they may still be reviewed by the court of appeal by a petition for writ of mandate — but that is another story.)

Unfortunately, it is not always clear when the final judgment has been entered because of the common practice of the parties first submitting proposed judgments, as well as the practice of adding court costs and/or attorney fees to the judgment at a later date. Thus, it is critical to fully understand how and when to appeal a “final judgment.”

The time for filing an appeal generally runs from one or more dates associated with the day that the final judgment or appealable order is signed by the trial judge. If no “notice of entry of judgment” has been filed and served by either the court clerk or one of the parties, then the time to file the appeal is 180 days from the mere “entry of judgment.” (Note: These time limits may vary from state to state.) However, if the clerk or a party has filed and served a notice of entry of judgment, then the time to appeal is 60 calendar days thereafter. Notably, these time limits are “jurisdictional,” so that a late filing is fatal to the appeal.

An unfavorable trial court decision can be appealed to the court of appeal by filing and serving on all parties a simple document that is generally entitled “notice of appeal.” The notice of appeal is filed in the trial court along with the payment of fees for the appeal. That notice of appeal filed in the trial court also starts a new file in the court of appeal, which will have a new appeal case number assigned to that case. The appeal is assigned to the district court of appeal that is nearest to the trial court. Thus, all further papers associated with that appeal are filed in the district court of appeal, not in the trial court.

Because appeals are not a “retrial” or “new trial” of the original trial court case, the appeal must be based upon the documents in the trial court’s file plus the transcripts of any hearings before the trial judge. These two items are generally known as the “record on appeal.” Typically, the documents in the trial court file are called the “clerk’s papers” and the record of the oral proceedings in the trial court are known as the “reporter’s transcript.”

Either concurrently with the filing of the notice of appeal or within a very short time thereafter, the appealing party has the duty to designate exactly what trial court documents and reporter’s transcripts he or she needs to have included in the record on appeal. Also, extra fees must be paid for the preparation of the clerk’s transcript and reporter’s transcript.

Within a short time, all other parties to the appeal must designate any other documents or transcripts they desire to be included in the record on appeal for consideration by the appellate justices.

Once the record on appeal has been finalized by the trial court clerk and the court reporters, the record is sent from the trial court to the court of appeal. At that time, the clerk for the appeal court will generally notify the parties that the first brief is due within the time period prescribed by court rule. The opposing party will then have a prescribed period of time to file an opposition brief and then the appealing party may thereafter file a reply brief. When all of the briefs have been submitted, the appeal court clerk will usually notify the parties when the appellate court justices will entertain oral argument. After oral argument, the appellate justices will issue their opinion.

An attorney focused on appeals like Corey Evan Parker can help guide you through the complex appellate process and provide guidance each step of the way. Mr. Parker warmly invites anyone considering an appeal to contact the Law Office of Corey Evan Parker to schedule a no obligation consultation.

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