Under the Indiana Constitution, every litigant is entitled to one appeal as a matter of right. As a general rule, these are taken to the Indiana Court of Appeals, fifteen judges located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Three decide each case.
Appeals are presented to the court from final orders (or certain temporary or interlocutory orders) in a written booklet form. There are several standard sections set forth in the Indiana Rules of Appellate Procedure.
An important section is the “Statement of the Facts.” Many appellate briefs are not consistent with the rules and the facts are argumentative. The facts must be objective and favorable to the trial court’s ruling. Weighing facts is not something the Court of Appeals does in review.
In addition, the facts must be cited to the Record, which is the transcript of testimony and exhibits an appendix of certain other material, such as motions filed in the case. Where facts have been left out in trial, they cannot be placed in an appellate brief. Failure to follow this rule, if the violations are extreme, may subject the appeal to dismissal. Such also deflects from the merits of the appeal.
The statement of the facts ties throughout the brief based on the issues raised. Legal issues may have very limited facts due to the standard of review. Basically, an error of law applied to the facts of the case and an incorrect decision is given no deference by the Court of Appeals. Conversely, the trial court judge’s observation of the witnesses and determination of credibility is given great weight.
Finally, and related to the facts and law, appeals commonly challenge rulings on admission or exclusion of evidence. As a general rule, a trial court’s decision to admit or exclude evidence is given a great deal of deference by the Court of Appeals. Thus, the better issue on appeal is unanswered questions of law or errors by the trial in mis-application of the law.
Other types of issues may result in relief from the Court of Appeals (i.e., reversal), but these are not as common. The Court of Appeals looks to factual errors and reverses typically where a review of the record and briefing leaves it with a firm conviction a mistake has been made.
We hope you find this blog post useful in understanding Indiana’s appellate process. Indiana’s intermediate appellate court is one of the most efficient and respected in the United States. It handles hundreds of appeals at any one time. This is not intended as specific legal advice or a solicitation of services. This blog post is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle appeals for clients across Indiana to the Indiana Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.