Indiana provides parties involved in legal disputes, whether it be criminal or civil in nature, with the opportunity to appeal the outcome of the case, albeit, with some exceptions. While the right to appeal is often cherished by those who receive a negative decision or judgment at the trial court level, this right tends to cause quite a headache for the party that was successful at trial. Often times, this leads individuals to ask themselves if they should even file a response to an appeal? Or if it really even makes a difference? In this blog, we look to answer those questions, as well as provide general considerations for individuals considering responding to an appeal.
Before answering these questions, it is first important to provide a quick overview of what is known as the standard of review. The standard of review is what appellate courts apply to particular cases in determining whether there were any errors committed. In general, there are three (3) recognized standards of review, which include, abuse of discretion, clearly erroneous, and de novo. Each of these standards of review involve their own legal nuisances, prohibiting any further discussion into these standards. What is important to know is that under these standards of review1, the Court of Appeals provides substantial deference to the trial court’s determination, whatever that determination may be. Thus, if you were the successful party at the trial court level, the Court of Appeals is already tilted in your favor.
Now, in considering whether to file a response, it is generally recommended that an individual do so. There are several reasons for this, but the main reason comes down to how the appellate court will review the case. In situations where an Appellee (the responding individual) fails to file a response, the Court of Appeals applies a less stringent standard of review. That is, the Court of Appeals has held they “are under no obligation to undertake the burden of developing an argument for the appellee.”2 As such, in those situations the Court of Appeals will reverse if there is “prima facie” error, meaning an error “at first sight” or “on the face of it.”3
In short, this less stringent standard of review essentially removes the deference generally granted to trial court’s on appeal, thereby significantly hurting your chances of success on appeal. Appeals are complex matters, and this area of law is extremely technical. The above information is general in nature, and know that there are exceptions to almost every rule. Obtaining skilled counsel is key to navigating the complex waters of appeals. This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle all types of appeals, be it civil or criminal, throughout Indiana. This blog is intended for general educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.
- This is not the case for de novo review.
- McKibben v. Kaiser, 106 N.E.3d 529 (Ind. Ct. App. 2018).