All final orders issued from Indiana trial courts may be appealed as a matter of right. Most appeals first go to the Indiana Court of Appeals. The appeal process is all done by written briefs based on the record (testimony and exhibits) from the trial court that decided the issues. In most cases, trial attorneys defer to those who routinely practice in the appellate realm to prepare the appeal. This means you most likely change counsel. In an appellate consult with a new counsel, there are several things you need to gather to make the most of your time with your potential counsel in to order to decide whether to move forward on appeal. This is the topic of this blog post.
The most critical document is the final order. This may be titled in many ways, including, “Special Findings”, “Order”, “Final Judgment”, or likewise. This order, unlike all other orders (called “interlocutory order”) that have issued during litigation, is the one that may be taken to the higher court and challenge the whole case, or a part of it, because it is the “final” order. This order settles the lawsuit and sets forth how money, real property, or custody issues will be apportioned without a change in the order on appeal. Your appellate counsel will need this for many reasons, from determining when the appeal must be filed to beginning to assess appellate issues. Obtain this document as it is the key to your appeal.
A close second to take to an appellate attorney is the Chronological Case Summary (CCS). The CCS is a chronological index that lists what has been filed in the case from the initiation of the lawsuit to this final judgment (and many times, post-trial filings). The CCS also tells the story of the case from the beginning and verifies the date of the final order for appeal. In addition, the CCS oftentimes reflects other key information for appeal, such as other cases and what has been at issues in the case from the motions that have been filed along the way. This is the second key document for any appellate counsel must make the most of helping your appellate counsel help you initially assess your case for appeal. Bring the CCS to your consult.
Thirdly, there are many other important or key documents that you should have, if they exist, for an appellate consult. The most important is a copy of any Motion to Correct Errors that was filed in the case. This changes the due date for the appeal and may if granted, limit the appeal. In addition, a Motion to Correct Errors may also highlight the issues that may be or should be presented on appeal. In most cases, a Motion to Correct Error is not required for appeal, but where they are filed, has significance for determining the appellate timeline, and to some extent, viable appellate issues. There are several other motions and orders that may be filed after a trial such as a Motion to Reconsider or a Trial Rule 60(B) motion. These provide, at a minimum, insights for your appellate counsel into the issues for appeal. Gather them in advance if possible.
The final material to bring to an appellate counsel is your story of how to you reached litigation and what drove the case. In essence, write a few pages explaining the who, what, when, where, why and how of your case; this may assist your appellate attorney in determining how you reached the point where you are considering appeal form your perspective—who you are and how to tell your legal story on appeal. In addition, most litigants and/or their trial counsels have a strong sense of what they want to appeal. Being able to articulate this in a consult helps identify appellate issues (or eliminate them). Be prepared to speak your mind and listen to key feedback on what are the best issues for appeal.
Ultimately, an appeal is a key right to afford you due process under the United States and Indiana Constitutions. However, a new journey or partnership with appellate counsel is best attended to if you know what to bring to an appellate consult to being or consider the appellate process. This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle appeals of final orders emanating from all Indiana trial courts. It is aimed at helping you understand and assess your appeal and be an informed legal consumer. This blog is written for general education purposes. It is not specific legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.