appellate court appeals Indiana

Anatomy of an Appellate Case in Indiana: Key Stages and Strategies

There are key stages in an appeal in Indiana, most with deadlines and filings that must be in proper form. At any stage, the court may reject a filing, send it back for requested modifications, or dismiss the case due to a missed deadline. Each step of the process requires careful attention, but there are strategies that when used can increase your odds of winning the appeal. This blog explores the anatomy of an appellate case in Indiana and its key stages and strategies. 

Steps To Appeal In Indiana

The first step in an appeal is filing a notice of appeal with the appellate and trial courts. The notice must include the parties’ information, trial information, identification of the order being appealed by date and title, a direction for the assembly of the clerk’s record, and a request for the transcript of any hearings needed (Ind. App. R 9(F)). The order being appealed must be attached to the notice, as well as any other orders or documents described in rule 9 of the Indiana rules of appellate procedure. A notice of appeal should be on the prescribed form, or in a format similar to the prescribed form, with all fields completed fully and accurately. The notice must be filed within 30 days of the appealed order being issued and entered on the chronological case summary. Upon filing of the notice with the clerk of the court of appeals, a filing fee of $250 will need to be paid (Indiana Appellate Clerk’s Office). 

Once the notice of appeal has been filed, the court reporter will be in contact regarding payment for the requested transcript(s). An estimated amount, based on the length of the hearing(s) and/or trial that needs to be transcribed, will be provided, and a downpayment due before the reporter will begin transcription. The downpayment is generally one-half of the estimated total. Payment arrangements for any balance should be made when discussing the downpayment and estimated total. The deadline for the court reporter to file the transcript(s) is 45 days from the date of filing the notice of appeal (Ind. App. R 11(B)). 

The next step of the appeals process is writing the brief. This is a critical stage in any appellate case. The appellant’s brief must follow very specific organizational and formatting rules (Ind. App. R. 43, Ind. App. R. 44, Ind App R. 46) and should explain in a concise and logical manner the facts relevant to the issue(s) being appealed, the applicable law(s), and how exactly that law(s) should be applied to the particular facts of the case. The issue(s) must also be clearly stated in order to avoid confusion or the court restating the issue in a manner inconsistent with the argument. 

The ability to write persuasively and convince the court quickly that the position being asserted is the best way to resolve the party's issues (Persuading Quickly: Tips for Writing an Effective Appellate Brief, 11 J. APP. PRAC. & PROCESS 443 (2010)) is important at this stage of the appellate process. The statement of the case is an excellent place to start the persuasion. Using this section to highlight the facts in favor of the client and minimize those that are not, can help guide the court through what happened while paying attention to the positive facts and hardly noticing the negative ones (Georgetown University Law Center, 2020).  

The strategy should be to explain why the trial court’s judgment is wrong, what law is the right one to apply, how it should be applied to which facts, and what conclusion should be reached. This needs to be done as if writing for an audience who does not already know any of these things (Dubose, Robert B., Appellate Brief Writing: Making a Brief Helpful and Persuasive). It would be impossible for a judge to have an in-depth understanding of every area of law, and briefs should be written accordingly. The applicable law and how to properly apply it to the facts of the case must be clearly explained, not just cited or mentioned as if in passing.  

Once the appellant’s brief is filed and served, the appellee has 30 days to file its brief. After this, comes oral arguments, if one of the parties has filed a motion for oral argument that has been granted, or the court set the matter for oral argument on its own (Ind. App. R. 52). An oral argument presented to the appellate court is very different from one made in the trial court. In the appellate court, each party has an allotted amount of time, usually 20 to 30 minutes, and may reserve some of that time for rebuttal, after the other party presents its argument. Parties may also be interrupted and questioned by the judges during their presentation (Court of Appeals of Indiana). Judges may ask any question they like, and do not necessarily stick to the topic currently being argued. While oral arguments are rarely heard, if one is scheduled, it is very important for the appellant advocate to be prepared. Be prepared to pick up and continue the presentation at the point where it was interrupted by the court, be prepared to answer the questions asked by the judges and be prepared for what the appellee may argue so that it can be successfully rebutted. 

If you are considering filing an appeal, or have already begun the process, the experienced attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. can help guide you through the key stages of an appellate case and ensure your rights are protected. This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. It is for general educational purposes. The blog is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice. This is an advertisement.


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