Final Appealable Order
"I want to appeal the trial court judge’s decision or jury verdict in my civil or criminal case (or sentencing). Where do I begin?"
The place to start is to determine if your trial counsel will handle the appeal. If not, the time is limited to locate and retain an appellate attorney. As a general rule, the appeal beings by filing a Notice of Appeal with the trial court within 30 days of the judgment. In criminal cases, this is pushed to 30 days after sentencing.
Failure to properly file the Notice of Appeal within this time prohibits the appeal. However, in criminal cases, a trial court may allow a belated Notice of Appeal to be filed or the defendant may challenge the conviction by post-conviction relief. Neither is optimal. An appeal, if timely, should always be considered before the time runs.
In today’s complex world, civil trials generally are tried to be bench (before the judge) and may occur over non-consecutive days. Many times the trial court will enter orders to maintain the status quo or make changes while the case pends.
At Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., we observe this is particularly true in domestic cases with child-related components. The problem this creates for appeal is ensuring the order is interlocutory in nature, not final. Quite often this sounds easier to determine than it actually is in practice.
For example, in a child custody modification case, the firm recently encountered language indicating the child custody modification was denied but the case would continue onto trial in the future. This language presents an appellate trick-box. It sounds as an interlocutory order and a final order.
In cases like this, it may be necessary to have trial and appellate counsel to ensure the trial portion is handled correctly, while at the same time protecting the right to appeal. This is the litigant’s duty, not that of an over-booked court. This is why the appellate and trial rules exists.
Assuming the Notice of Appeal is timely filed, the court clerk will prepare the clerk’s record, which is a copy of the chronological case summary (an index of what has been filed) and the court reporter will prepare the transcript (a word for word of the testimony) and exhibits. Ultimately, this will form the basis of the Appellant’s Brief and appeal.
Appeals are rule driven and easy to waive for failure to adhere to them. This is the complexity in which Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys spend their professional time and thrive. If you, the Reader, have an appeal looming on the horizon based on current litigation, perhaps we should be your counsel.