Under Appellate Rule 9, a party generally has the right to appeal a final judgment to the Indiana Court of Appeals. This order is the one that decides the case. However, an appeal has some very key limitations that are easy to misunderstand and miss when deciding to appeal. This blog post covers three important such issues that generally cannot be waived on appeal.
First, if key evidence is not introduced at trial (for whatever reason) it cannot be in some way supplemental for the appeal. The appeal is limited to the testimony and exhibits admitted at trial. In criminal cases, there may be another remedy, such as ineffective assistance of counsel. In civil cases, there is very narrow relief, such as a remand before appeal for more evidence but the rules are strict. The point is if it was not raised at trial, it cannot be interjected into the appeal.
Second, a key concept on appeal is a party may not waive an error that could be corrected at trial and then assert it as a basis for reversal or other relief on appeal. This is known as the waiver doctrine. They may occur, for instance, where a witness is excluded and the attorney does not make what is known as an offer of proof—putting into record what the witness testimony would have been. This way if the trial court erred in excluding the witness from testifying, the Court of Appeals can determine if this is significant enough for relief, such as reversal.
The third and final common misunderstanding is what is known as “invited error.” Invited error occurs, for instance, where a party puts on evidence or requests relief and the trial court grants it. However, this may not be the only relief or remedy the litigant wants to appeal. This is generally an argument that does not prevail on appeal because he or she asked for or did not correct the evidence at trial.
Appeals have an important place in ensuring due process by a right to have a higher court review cases as a matter of right. It is important, however, to understand some issues are stronger than others as you evaluate what issues to appeal and how to draft them, namely to avoid these pitfalls.
This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle appeals from all Indiana trial courts to the Indiana Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. We hope this blog post provides helpful information. This blog is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for legal services. It is an advertisement.