For the most part, all appeals in Indiana are taken to the Indiana Court of Appeals. It is quite common for trial counsel to suggest or direct a different attorney handle any appeal. In addition, a significant number of attorneys and law firms do not handle appeals.
At Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. we find clients are sometimes unsure about how to help us–or the attorney they may select–with advancing their appeal. Almost universally, there are ten items, a checklist of sorts, you as a prospective client may have or can gather to make any appellate consult or new representation more meaningful.
Each is discussed as oriented to a new attorney-client relationship for purposes of an appeal:
1. Final Order for Appeal.
In the course of most litigation, there are a number of orders that are entered by the court. They are interlocutory in nature, which means they are likely not significant on appeal as the order being appealed. The final order to be appealed, which is usually identified for you by your trial counsel, the single most important item your appellate counsel needs. This is necessary to perfect an appeal, by filing the Notice of Appeal in a timely fashion. And it gives your appellate counsel an idea of the legal issues and complexity of the appeal to discuss with you.
2. File Marked Copies of Motion to Correct Errors, any Response, and Ruling.
A few cases in which a party is displeased with the trial court’s order try to correct any error, in particular errors in application of the law. If so, there may be a Motion to Correct Error, Response, and perhaps an order generated by the trial court on the alleged error (the trial court does not have to do this). If this is the case, this is just as critical to the appellate attorney as the final order upon which it is based. Bring it with you to your attorney meeting.
3. Copy of a Current Chronological Case Summary (a/k/a CCS).
A CCS is the official list or index maintained by all Indiana trial courts on what has been filed in their proceedings. In the event you do not remember a critical filing, this will allow your appellate counsel to determine it exists. Furthermore, any given order in a case may have three (3) different dates, the date signed by the judge, file-marked, or entered on the CCS. Typically, the date on the CCS controls for appellate purposes. All dates and time lines in the Court of Appeals must be strictly followed to avoid the Court dismissing the appeal. If you can obtain this, you have made your attorney’s job simpler and provided more complete information for an appellate meeting and a good start to your case.
4. File Marked Copies of All Court Filings.
In many cases, the client has copies of all of the file marked filings, motions, and orders issued during the underlying case. Some are all of these will become a part of the Appellant’s Appendix. If you provide these, it will help your appellate counsel initially have complete information to consult with you and get the case ready at the time of filing. This is also routine work that you can do to perhaps save yourself some money.
5. Copies of All Jacket Entries.
In certain types of cases, domestic in general, the trial court may enter an informal order in handwritten format in documents called “Minute Sheets”. These may also be written into the actual files of the case in the file jacket. Where these have been done, appellate counsel, to have a comprehensive picture of your case, also needs these. If you have such, or they are readily available, they may be obtained and provided to your appellate attorney.
6. Notice of Appeal if Filed.
Because there is only thirty days to perfect an appeal, trial counsel may file this to protect a client’s interest. Where this is the case, a copy should be provided to appellate counsel at once to make sure it is accurate in what it states. The failure to prepare and file a correct Notice of Appeal is jurisdictional. This means certain failure may subject the appeal to dismissal. A defect determined by appellate counsel may be addressed by filing an Amended Notice of Appeal within the time lines afforded for the original notice.
7. Wrap Up Letter Identifying Appellate Issues from Trial Counsel (if any).
Where your trial attorney has provided a wrap up letter or transmittal letter with the adverse order you seek to appeal, it is common for such to address your right to appeal. In some cases, this includes identification of potential appellate issues. Your appellate attorney will need this in any situation, if provided to you. Bring it to your appellate counsel. This may hone-in on the appellate issues and make for a more effective attorney-client relationship on appeal.
8. Name, Address and Contact Phone Number/E-Mail of Court Reporter.
If known, bring appellate counsel the contact information for the court reporter. Your appellate counsel will need to immediately get in contact with the court reporter to order the transcript. This is the word-for-word, type-written account of the testimony. Most appellants want the appeal to progress as fast as it can. For this reason, the more of such information you have and provide to appellate counsel, the faster the appeal may progress.
9. Time Line of Case.
Time lines are helpful for appellate counsels. If you have prepared one of these for trial, or it is not too hard do so, provide one to your appellate counsel. The aid in helping an attorney who may have had no contact with the case get familiar quickly and learn it inside and out. This should include nick-names for the parties or aliases. There is nothing more unsettling for an appellate attorney than to be writing a brief and come across a completely new name. If you have prepared this timeline, this may be readily identified and the attorney more able to effectively account for this.
10. List of Issues You Want to Address on Appeal.
Many litigants pre-identify the issues they want address on appeal. If this is your case, bring these to the attention of your appellate counsel. He or she can work through the list with you and readily cull the stronger issues (dealing with the law) from the weaker ones (questions of fact).
As advocates who handle civil and criminal appeals throughout the State of Indiana, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. hopes you find this checklist educational.