In court, as in life, there is often someone who wins, and someone who loses. If you lose in court, can you appeal? Maybe. Should you appeal? Maybe not.
What is an appeal?
An appeal is a request that a higher court review the ruling of a lower court. The claim is that the lower court made an error that the reviewing court should correct.
Appeals have deadlines
The first thing to know about your appellate rights is that you must act quickly. The appealing party has only thirty days from the date of a final ruling to file an appeal. This deadline is rarely extended. So, if you are considering an appeal, don’t delay.
Appeals have strict requirements
Filing an appeal is not complicated…assuming you know and follow the rules. If you don’t, it’s nearly impossible.
- The first thing to know is that you can only appeal a court’s final order. This is generally a verdict, a judgment, or a decision that dismisses the case. If a judge has made a ruling, but the case is not finished in that court, you probably cannot appeal.
- The next thing to know, apart from the deadline described above, is that if you are appealing, you must have made arguments, and gotten the judge to make rulings, on the record. This means you filed motions on which the judge made rulings. Or you raised issues while the proceedings were being recorded that the judge ruled on. If you filed no motions, got no rulings, or made no arguments on the record, there is nothing to appeal.
- The next thing to know is that you must file a notice of appeal. This form tells the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which is our only appellate court, that you have a case you want the court to review. The form must be filled out completely. You must identify the errors you believe the judge made, and you must identify the recorded proceedings, relevant to the appeal, that should be transcribed, so the court can decide whether to grant you relief. The appealing party must pay a filing fee and bear the cost of preparing the transcripts unless the party is eligible for court-appointed counsel in a criminal case. If the party is not eligible for court-appointed counsel – and only those convicted of criminal offenses punishable by jail time are – the party must hire a lawyer or represent themselves.
Two other things to bear in mind are that the court only has to accept certain kinds of appeals, and it will only decide issues that were raised in the lower court. If your case is not one of those the court must accept, it can decline the case if it decides the issue lacks merit or is not sufficiently important to the development of the law. If you did not present evidence relevant to your case in the lower court, you cannot present it on appeal. The Supreme Court does not receive any testimony, or any documents or photos that were not introduced as evidence in the lower court.
Upon consideration of these factors, you may decide that an appeal is not likely to succeed. A lawyer can guide you in making that decision.
Appeals take a long time to decide.
If you were charged with speeding, you might get into court and get a decision within a few months. The appellate process is long and has many steps. After you file the appeal, the court must decide whether to accept it. If it does, it must order the transcripts. The appealing party must write a brief, which is a document setting forth the legal arguments in support of relief. Then, the opposing party files a brief. The appealing party may file a reply brief. The Court will decide whether to order an oral argument, or decide the case based on the briefs. Even in a relatively simple case, it can take more than a year from the time the notice of appeal was filed to get a decision. In some cases, it’s not worth waiting this long.
Questions? It generally costs nothing to ask. And by asking, you can save time and expense, or correct an unjust or improper ruling against you.