One common question parties wishing to appeal decisions/sentences/judgments have is how the Court of Appeals will hear the evidence underlying an appeal. A common misconception is that all appellate cases are heard before the Court of Appeals. However, it is only a fairly small percentage of cases that are heard and argued in person before the Court of Appeals, in what is called oral argument1.
If oral argument is not ordered in the case, the information and background of the case is set out by the parties through briefs and appendices. The Notice of Appeal is the first filing with the Court of Appeals to begin the appellate process2. Then, the appellant files his/her brief, which sets forth the background of the case. However, some cases have been active in the lower court for years, so how does the Court of Appeals learn the full background of the case?
Along with the Appellant’s Brief, the appellant also files an appendix (or multiple appendices if the materials are too voluminous to fit into one appendix)3. Within this appendix, the appellant provides filings and related materials from the trial court relevant to the order on appeal.
For example, if the case being appealed is a custody matter, in which father has been granted custody and mother is appealing, several relevant documents may be included in mother’s appendix. Any motions regarding custody filed by the parties, any Guardian ad Litem report or custody evaluation (confidentially filed, if necessary), and any Orders from the Court relevant to custody may be included in the appendix.
Once the brief and appendix are filed with the Court of Appeals, the Court can then reference these filings from the lower court, setting forth the background of the appeal. Additionally, within the brief, the appellate parties reference the appendix materials to support their argument. This bolsters the argument, adding references from the lower court proceedings to the arguments on appeal.
The appellate process is designed to allow for the background of a lower court case to be thoroughly summarized and provided to the Court of Appeals. Even without oral arguments, briefs and appendices provide the relevant background to cases and set the stage for the pending appeals.
We hope that this blog has been helpful in providing general information about appellate procedure and how the Court of Appeals gleans background information on cases that are often complex and lengthy in the lower court. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.