Aside from live streaming, very few litigants understand the appellate process. Most all that is on television is court-room drama. In fact, some litigants do not appeal because they believe the judge who decided their case will decide and will rule the same way. In fact, the trial court judge is not involved in any way in the appellate process. This blog explores appeals to the Indiana Court of Appeals—where all aggrieved litigants can appeal to as a matter of right.
The Court of Appeals of Indiana or Indiana Court of Appeals is in Indianapolis, Indiana and is comprised of fifteen appellate judges. In 2021, there were 3,018 appeals filed. For comparison, there are 1.2 million lawsuits filed in Indiana each year, so an appeal is a “big deal”.
When a case is properly and fully briefed, the Clerk of the Indiana Court of Appeals and Indiana Supreme Court sends all briefs and related materials (such as the record and appendices) to three randomly assigned judges in the Indiana Court of Appeals to decide your case. These three judges are called the “writing panel”. Again, they have no contact with your trial court judge—although many appellate judges were at one time trial court judges.
These judges then review the briefs and materials sent to them, research the controlling law, and then issue a written opinion based on the issues raised on appeal. The three judges do not have to agree and there can be a dissent. However, the decision of the two judges that agree decide your case. The third judge and the dissent is not controlling of the appeal.
From there, either party can seek transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court and ask it to take the case and decide it. Alternatively, depending on the opinion of the Court of Appeals, it may not make legal sense to seek transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court.
At this juncture, it is important to note the judges on the Court of Appeals do a significant amount of work other than reviewing and deciding appeals assigned to them. An important secondary function the judges of the Court of Appeals perform is deciding various motions placed before them, such as a motion to continue or a motion for stay of a trial court’s decision.
A certain number of judges gather on the “Motions Panel” to review and decide how to address all motions filed with the Court of Appeals. Most motions are granted; however, some motions are held in abeyance for the “Writing Panel” to address, such as a motion to strike portions of briefing.
Ultimately, it is hoped this blog assists you in understanding what an appeal means in Indiana and who decides the case (your trial court judge is not involved in any way). This blog is written for general educational purposes and is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issues. The blog is not legal advice. It is an advertisement.