Very few civil cases are decided by a jury in Indiana. Therefore most final orders (the ruling that decides the case) are issued following a trial before a judge (bench trial). In most cases, someone wins (prevails) and someone loses. As a general rule, after a final order is issued a party has 30 days to appeal.
In Indiana, there is a right to one appeal. Almost all of these go to the Indiana Court of Appeals, which is comprised of 15 judges located in Indianapolis. They decide cases in three judge panels. This means three randomly assigned judges in this group of 15 will decided your case and issue a written opinion affirming (agreeing with) or reversing (disagreeing with) the trial court’s decision.
Whether to appeal a trial court’s order is often a complex decision. Here are three general or major reasons a person chooses to appeal. This is the major focus of this blog post.
First, in domestic cases (in particular), a parent who does not prevail often feels like without an appeal, he or she has not done all within their power to protect the child. Equally, many people who believe they have been wronged go to appeal to protect their view of the integrity of the system. These are not correct or incorrect choices, but nevertheless require the appeal to be drafted in a way that tells this story, but in a way that makes it stronger for appeal. These are sometimes based on the facts being one-sided the other way or incorrect application of the law or both.
Second, across the civil spectrum in Indiana and all states, the law is exceedingly complex and sometimes in apparent conflict. This is due to how our system works and is ordinary and expected. In such cases, it may be the court applied the wrong law or a different law could have applied. In these situations, an appeal may be brought based on a question of law. These are typically the strongest type of appeal. The Court of Appeals (or Indiana Supreme Court) does not give these any deference and are more likely to be successful on appeal.
Third, there are sometimes cases where the law is outdated, or constitutional issues are at hand, these are rarer but are also cases of importance to higher courts. An example is where a trial court would order a party not to discuss any aspect of the case, as this might be a restraint on free speech.1
Litigants, perhaps readers like you, are the key to developing the law and the Indiana Court of Appeals and Supreme Court stand ready to neutrally and impartially decide cases to help Indiana law stay relevant and consistent with the will of the people through the Legislature. Perhaps this is your case?
This blog post is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who practice through the State in all Indiana appellate courts, 7th Circuit and United States Supreme Court. This blog is provided for general educational purposes only and is not a solicitation for legal representation nor legal advice.