The appellate process can often seem elusive and might be considered by some to be “behind closed doors” because often, the appellate parties rarely appear before the Court of Appeals, and receive only a written opinion following their written briefs submitted to the higher appellate courts.
The appeals court process in different from the trial court process in several ways. The deadlines are different (and strict), the decision makers are different, and even the means of arguing is different. In appellate cases, a party wishing to appeal has only thirty (30) days to appeal a final order (there are generally different rules for interlocutory and administrative appeals, but these will not be explored in this blog post) 1.
The document used to initiate an appeal is called a notice of appeal. Within the notice of appeal, the appellant (party appealing the final order) states what order is being appealed, when the order is from, out of what county the order originated, and if they have an attorney, who the attorney is for the appellant.
After the notice of appeal is filed, the appellant files a brief (written argument) of the issues, and the appellee (party responding) can reply to same. The appellant then gets a chance to reply to the appellee’s reply, and the appellee can then respond to appellant’s reply2. In other words, the party who appeals get the last say. After the issue is fully briefed, the Court of Appeals issues its written opinion.
There is an extra step beyond this “basic” appeals process. If the parties request and/or the Court of Appeals orders, the parties may present oral arguments3. During this process, the attorneys or parties (if not represented by an attorney) present their arguments orally to the Court, providing the Court the chance to ask questions and clarify points4. This argument is generally how the unique facts of the case fit into the laws or how the should fit (a chance in the law may occur by an appeal).
For several years, the Court of Appeals has heard oral arguments at locations around the state of Indiana. Oral arguments have been held at high schools, colleges, and other locations around the state. Often, there is background information provided to the audience to bring them up to speed on the case, and provide the background for how the case has come to oral arguments. Then, the parties will present their oral arguments and the justices will ask their questions, allowing the audience to view how the process works, and how all the information has come together to allow the justices to make their decision.
Last year, oral arguments were heard at several locations across the state, including at law schools and high schools. This year, the traveling oral arguments (“Appeals on Wheels”) will again be heard throughout the state. Attending an oral argument heard near you may give you a new understanding and may “open the door” to the process5. Often, after arguments are heard, the justices will answer questions and explain further their processes and how they will use the information in the matter. As a party involved in an appeal or just engaged citizen, this unique opportunity is one we encourage you to be involved with to learn what you dedicated court of appeals judges do for you and your fellow Hoosiers involved in litigation that reaches and appeals. The Indiana Court of Appeals is one of the most efficient courts in the United States.
We hope that this blog post has given you a better understanding of the appellate process and how oral arguments can help educate about the appeals process as a whole. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.