How Missteps Can Cost You Your Case
Appeals are difficult and time consuming for both clients and attorneys–and the Indiana appellate courts who decide them in a very efficient manner (the Indiana Court of Appeals is one of the fastest appellate courts in the United States).
Clients with a final order from the lower court looking for a reconsideration by an alleged error of fact and/or law sometimes appeal. However, the appellate process is much more rigid and rule-driven than the trial court process, which is inherently disjointed because the problems of life are messy and Indiana’s trial courts get these cases when every other means of resolution has failed.
As such, attorneys and litigants who handle the cases themselves are tasked with following a strict set of rules and regulations, including the proper color of the cover and word count and/or page limit, and specific time deadline.
If the rules and procedures for an appellate brief are not followed exactly and/or in a material way and properly, a brief can be rejected and an appeal dismissed, ending any chance for appeal. So, it is possible that if the brief writer does not adhere to the proper rules and procedures and, for example, turns in a brief one day late, the client’s ability to appeal may be dismissed as untimely.
Therefore, it is important that an appellate litigant or his attorney have a working knowledge of the appellate rules and procedures--and be especially aware of timing. Often, extensions in the Court of Appeals are more difficult to procure and must be sought in advance of the due date. In fact, certain cases have very strict prohibitions on time enlargements.
In a case within the last few years, Galvan v. State of Indiana1, the Plaintiff was charged with criminal acts and pled guilty to same. She waived her right to appeal in her plea; however, she attained the aid of an attorney and filed an appellate brief. Belated appeals are sometimes allowed in criminal cases (after a deadline passes). The reason for this is the loss of the liberty and freedom by incarceration–usually more severe punishment potential than civil remedies.
Back to Galvan. The attorney Galvan retained did not follow the strict appellate rules, and, the Court noted, had been warned before on at least three (3) occasions that his briefs were not up to appellate standards. Each appellate brief requires a statement of facts, and in the case at hand, the Court found Galvan’s was inadequate. The brief did not provide the relevant facts, citing to the record from the lower court. Rather, the statement of facts simply recited the charges against Galvan.
The Court also noted that the brief did not cite properly to the record. With appeals, no new evidence can be offered that was not presented below. All arguments and evidence must come from the prior proceedings in the trial court (typically contained in the trial testimony and exhibits). Therefore, essentially every fact (or inference) in the appellate record comes directly from the trial court record, and same must be cited. This brief did not properly cite, again incongruous with the appellate rules.
The Court also found the Table of Contents lacking and the cited cases to support the brief position inadequate as well. For all of these reasons and because the attorney had been forewarned, the appeal was dismissed. The appeal sought by Galvan failed, and there was no other means to pursue an appeal.
Court processes are full of rules and regulations, but especially in the context of appeals. Consulting with and retaining an appellate attorney who is well-versed on the rules and also well-organized is paramount for even a chance for a successful appeal. Thus, as with every other aspect of your life as it relates to law, educate yourself and make a meaningful and reasoned choice about your counsel. If your appeal is not properly perfected and handled, it will increase the chances it will fail.
This blog has hopefully provided you an insight into the appellate process and how it differs from the trial process. If it has, then this blog has met it educational goal. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices law throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by Bryan Ciyou, Esq. and Jessica Keyes.