Whether it is a criminal or civil case (including family law), a trial verdict might seem to be an endpoint; but in truth, it can be the beginning of an Indiana appeals journey. What cases can be brought before the Indiana Court of Appeals? What is the appeals process? And what are the best practices for how to win an appeal? Read on for essential insights into this often-misunderstood area of Indiana law.
What Judgments Can Be Appealed?
Simply put, for criminal and civil cases, according to the Indiana Courts branch of state government, “If a party is unhappy with the result of their case in an Indiana trial court, they may file an appeal, asking the appeals court to reverse the lower court based on a matter of Indiana law.” This last point – “based on a matter of Indiana law” – is important for anyone seeking to understand how to win an appeal. For an appeal to succeed (that is, for the lower court’s judgment to be reversed), the argument in favor of appeal must be supported by Indiana law. This could include the discovery of an error – typically an error in the legal process or basis for the judgment – that occurred during the initial trial.
Simply disagreeing with the lower court judge’s ruling is not sufficient grounds for reversal of the ruling on appeal. Nonetheless, “the Court of Appeals of Indiana may not decline appeals.” That is, the appellate court may not refuse to at least consider an appeal. Indeed, no matter how weak the grounds for an appeal might be, the right to file one is inherent in the judicial process.
What Is the Appeals Process?
The losing party initiates an appeal by filing a Notice of Appeal with the Court Clerk within thirty (30) days after a Final Judgment has been entered into the Chronological Case Summary. In most cases, if not filed within this prescribed period, the right to appeal is forfeited.
Once a case is appealed, usually with the assistance of a competent attorney, “the Court does not re-conduct a trial or hearing.” In fact, no new evidence may be submitted. Rather, on appeal, “the facts of the case are generally agreed upon.” This means that an appeal is NOT a retrial. Nor will it rehash facts presented in the lower court. Rather, the appeals process is conducted to ensure that the trial process and manner of arriving at a fair judgment were proper.
When considering the appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals will review the case record, including:
- The lower court’s decision
- Legal briefs regarding the case submitted by both parties; these briefs provide each side’s accounting of the case facts and legal arguments for or against the veracity of the trial and the ruling
- A formal request for relief which, in the case of the appellant (the party seeking relief), typically includes a request to overturn the ruling, either in full or in part
In certain cases, appellate judges may ask each side to present oral arguments.
Based on this input from both parties, the appellate court will consider the appeal and either reject it, letting the ruling of the lower court stand, or rule in favor of the appellant, thus reversing the lower court's ruling, either in whole or in part.
If the Indiana Court of Appeals denies the petition, the appellant can appeal one level higher to “the court of last resort,” the Indiana Supreme Court. Appellants should understand that regardless of their rights to appeal at each stage, the chances of winning an appeal tend to diminish at each subsequent level.
How to Win an Appeal
The best advice for how to win an appeal is to avoid having to seek one in the first place. By engaging the services of a first-rate legal representative, skilled and experienced in successfully handling cases like yours, your chances of winning the case in the lower court are far greater. With superior attention to detail and process, and armed with a deep understanding of the law, your lower court case will be stronger. It is also important, of course, to conduct your case properly and with respect to the court.
It is possible that a process error or some other mitigating factor, including the discovery of new and relevant evidence, may come to light after the conclusion of the trial or in the details of the judge’s ruling. In that case, this information can help substantiate grounds for appeal.
Can a judge deny an appeal in the state of Indiana? Yes. While the Indiana Court of Appeals cannot refuse to consider an appeal, an Appellate Court judge can rule against the appeal request and affirm the lower court decision. Other key considerations regarding Indiana appeals include the following:
- Any losing party in an Indiana lower court case can file an appeal, requesting the Indiana Court of Appeals to reverse the lower court based on a matter of Indiana law
- While the right to file an appeal is inherent in the judicial process, merely disagreeing with the lower court decision is not sufficient grounds for reversal of the ruling
- An appeal is not a retrial; it simply considers whether the lower court trial process and judgment were proper
- If the Indiana Court of Appeals denies the petition, the appellant can appeal one level higher to “the court of last resort,” the Indiana Supreme Court
- By engaging the services of a qualified legal representative, like the attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, your chances of winning the case in the lower court are enhanced, reducing the need to file an appeal
Appealing a court decision requires vast knowledge and attention to detail. At Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., our attorneys draw on decades of collective experience handling Indiana appeals. To learn more about how to win your case or how to win an appeal, contact us today at (317) 972-8000.
This blog post provides general educational material about how to win an appeal in the Indiana Court of Appeals. Being an educated legal consumer can help you make the most of the legal experience in meeting your legal objectives. This information is presented by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who practice throughout the State of Indiana. It is not a solicitation, nor is it intended to provide specific legal advice. It is an advertisement. Information contained herein is subject to change.