What types of decisions can be appealed?

Usually only final decisions of a trial court can be appealed. If the trial court makes a ruling during your case but the decision does not end your case completely, you generally have to wait until the case is completely finished before you can appeal that decision. There are some situations where you may be able to ask the appellate court to accept “discretionary review” of a decision before the case is finished, but in those situations you need to demonstrate to the court of appeals why the appeal must be heard now instead of at the end of the case.

How long do I have to appeal my case?

You have only 30 days from entry of an order terminating your case to file an appeal.

What happens after I file an appeal?

After filing an appeal, you are responsible for making sure that a record of the trial court proceedings gets transmitted to the court of appeals. This includes copies of the pleadings, any transcripts of hearings and testimony, and any trial exhibits. Once the record from the trial court is transmitted to the court of appeals, each party must prepare and file written arguments with the appellate court. Depending on the case, the court of appeals will then either decide the case based upon the written arguments or ask the parties to present oral argument.

A more detailed outline of the appeal process can be found here: http://www.courts.wa.gov/appellate_trial_courts/chartrap.doc

How long will my appeal take?

Appeal lengths vary depending on the particular circumstances of each case, but you can expect that it will take several months to more than a year to pass between the time you filed your appeal and a decision is issued.

What happens to the trial court order or judgment while my appeal is pending?

The trial court’s order generally stays in place and can be enforced while you appeal your case. This means that if a judgment has been entered against you, the other side can take collection action on the judgment or other action to enforce the judgment even during the appeal. Usually the only way to prevent this is to ask the court to stay the judgment and/or post what is called an appeal bond. In the case of a monetary judgment, the appeal bond required is often the amount of the judgment, plus interest and any attorney fees or court costs that may be incurred by the other side during the appeal.

I have some new evidence that was not presented at trial, can I bring that up on appeal?

With few exceptions, the court of appeals does not consider any new evidence on appeal. The appeals court is primarily concerned with determining whether a mistake was made by the trial court based upon the evidence the trial court had before it at the time of the trial or hearing.

Should I hire a new lawyer for my appeal, or have my trial lawyer handle the appeal for me?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both. By using your trial lawyer to handle your appeal, you benefit from the fact that he or she does not have to become familiar with the case, like a new attorney would. Your attorney is also likely to be aware of what errors may have taken place that can serve as the basis for an appeal. On the other hand, a new attorney can bring a fresh perspective to your case that your existing trial lawyer may not be able to. Also, if your trial lawyer is not experienced in appeals, it may be important to find one who is. The rules and procedures in appellate courts are different from those in a trial court, and you may benefit from hiring an attorney with the skills and experience of having handled appeals. If you are considering hiring a new appellate lawyer for an appeal, it is important to do so quickly since the time for filing an appeal is only 30 days.

Do I have to live in the state where I appeal my judgment?

No. As long as the court has jurisdiction over your dispute, where you live does not affect whether you can appeal a judgment.

Where you live may have an impact on legal issues known as jurisdiction and venue. Jurisdiction has to do with whether the court has the power or authority to hear your case in the first place. Venue is related to which court location (city or county) is most appropriate for hearing your matter. By the time your case reaches the appeal stage, the issues of jurisdiction and venue have usually been taken care of, unless one of the parties is challenging those decisions on appeal.

From a practical standpoint, an appeal does not require a client’s physical presence in the state. A client is generally not allowed to testify once the case reaches an appeal stage. By the time a case is on appeal, all the evidence has been taken, parties and witnesses have testified, and the trial court has issued a ruling. On appeal, that “record” from the trial court is transmitted to the appeal court, and written and oral arguments are presented to the court. But no further presence of a party is required on appeal.

Who can file an appeal?

Any party to a lawsuit who received an unfavorable ruling from a court can file an appeal. Someone who is not a party to the suit does not have authority to file an appeal. Also, as discussed in an earlier post (January 2, 2013) there generally must be a final order entered before an appeal can be filed.

Although any aggrieved party is entitled to file an appeal, it may not always be advisable to do so. Statistically speaking, most cases that are appealed are not reversed; the trial court decision is upheld. This is because on appeal, the court is looking for errors made by the lower court. On issues of fact – what the trial court determined the facts of the case were – the trial court is given deference. Unless it can be shown that there was no substantial evidence to support the trial court’s factual determinations, the trial court’s rulings on issues of fact will be upheld.

Are there costs involved with filing an appeal?

Yes, there are costs involved in filing an appeal, above and beyond what an attorney would charge. First, there is a filing fee for filing the appeal. The cost for filing an appeal in the State of Washington at this time is $250. Also, once the appeal is filed, it is the responsibility of the party filing the appeal to arrange for the “record” on review to be transmitted to the appeals court. This includes transcripts of the testimony in the trial court. The court reporter charges a fee for this transcription. The record also includes ordering copies of court filings, which are billed on a per page basis by the court clerk’s office.

Who can attend an oral argument?

With only a few exceptions, oral arguments are open to the public and anyone is permitted to attend. There are three appellate courts and a supreme court in Washington. The three appellate courts are located in Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane. The state Supreme Court is located in Olympia. From time to time, members of the appellate courts hear oral argument at other locations around the state to make it easier for visitors to watch oral argument in a city or town near where they live.

The appellate court locations and court calendars can be found at http://www.courts.wa.gov/appellate_trial_courts/. Calendars showing oral argument dates and times are also available through this website.

Can the court dismiss my appeal?

Yes, there are a few different ways your appeal could be dismissed by the court prior to a final ruling in the case.

First, the court could dismiss your appeal at your request. You are always free to ask the court to dismiss your case and accept the ruling of the trial court. You can also request the court dismiss your appeal on the basis that you have settled your dispute with the other party.

However, if your case is pending in the state Supreme Court, asking to dismiss your appeal for these reasons may be more difficult. The state Supreme Court often accepts cases because they involve important legal issues in this state, which may have important precedential value. As a result, the Supreme Court may decline to dismiss a case if it feels a ruling on the issue if important.

The court can also dismiss your appeal involuntarily. If you fail to raise sufficient reasons to justify your appeal, the other side may file a motion called a “motion on the merits.” This is the other side’s request to the court that your appeal be dismissed summarily because there is no chance that your requests on appeal will be granted.

Please don’t hesitate to contact our offices with any questions you may have about an appeal. Our experienced attorneys are here to help you!