Appeals to the Indiana Court of Appeals and Indiana Supreme Court are meant to provide litigants and attorneys with very specific guidance by and through the Appellate Rules to take an appeal through the appellate process. These Rules ensure uniformity, efficiency, and, ultimately, justice.
However, in life and law, there are certain circumstances where rules fall short, and life liberty and property hang in the balance. In a rare glimpse into how Indiana’s highest court, the Indiana Supreme Court, handles these situations, it decided a case yesterday that shows how it is always able to effectuate justice by deviating from the Appellate Rules.1 Look inside!
In Town of Ellettsville v. DeSpirito, the trial court did not dispose of all of the issues to make a final appealable order.2 However, the Court of appeals decided the case on its merits, mistakenly taking a prior case of the Supreme Court to mean it had “significantly relaxed the procedural requirements” for appeals.
When the case reached the Supreme Court, it reversed the Court of Appeals, which supports the policy of speedy justice, reversed and remanded the case, and deviated from the rule3 that requires an appellate case to be certified by its Clerk as final for it to be acted upon and enforced. Specifically, to expedite the process, the Supreme Court ruled, “this opinion is effective immediately”. Normally, some time passes before the trial court and appellate attorneys are officially notified by the Clerk of the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court that it/they can act on the appellate decision.
In further reinforcing the policy for its decision for the case to immediately return to the trial court, the Supreme Court noted a rule that rarely applies to its cases (but to those of the Court of Appeals). It held that it would not consider a petition for rehearing of the case in its Court it had just decided.
The take-aways from this blog are the Indiana Supreme Court, Indiana’s highest court, can deviate from its appellate rules in the interests of justice. Furthermore, it reinforces that the Indiana Supreme Court, like the Court of Appeals, may be asked to “rehear” a case in the right circumstances. Finally, it reinforces for litigants and attorneys the importance of bringing to appellate courts cases that have final judgments as to all issues. Until then, there is no appellate jurisdiction.
Appeals are complex and rule-driven but exist to ensure justice and uniformity of justice. If you are considering an appeal, this case may be relevant to you and your case and shows the great lengths the Indiana Supreme Court goes to ensure justice. In addition, it also points to caution in making sure the appeal is ripe and follows the rules and process, and reflects how a party may appeal from administrative agency to a trial court, the Court of Appeals, and the Indiana Supreme Court. This case reflects the spectrum of courts, laws, and rules in Indiana.
This blog is written by Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys, who handle appeals from certain interlocutory orders and final judgment from all Indiana trial courts. This blog is written for general informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.