The most common type of appeal is one taken from a final order or decision in a case. In civil cases, a party who does not get the outcome they would have liked can appeal the final judgement or order to the Indiana Court of Appeals. In criminal cases, the defendant can appeal either a conviction, sentencing order, or both, but the state has no right to an appeal. One other type of appeal is available in Indiana, allowing a party to appeal an order that is not the final order in the case. There are however limitations to this sort of appeal, called an interlocutory appeal. This blog explains the two types of appeal and discusses the criteria for appealability in Indiana courts.
Parties to civil suits and defendants in criminal cases have at least one right to an appeal in Indiana, which can be taken after a final judgement or order has been entered, resolving all issues and ending the case (I.C. 33-29-5-6). Most appeals go to the Indiana Court of Appeals, except for tax cases, attorney discipline cases, cases where a statute has been declared unconstitutional, and those involving death sentences and sentences of life without parole (Indiana Judicial Branch). The Court of Appeals cannot refuse to hear any appeal of a final judgement which is timely filed and because the trial court may not prevent a party from appealing a final judgement or order, this type of appeal is often referred to as an “appeal of right” or a “direct appeal”. It is important to understand here that although a party may have a right to appeal, this does not mean that they should. Appeals can be expensive. Not only will there be attorney fees, but the appellate court charges a filing fee of $250 that must be paid when the Notice of Appeal is filed. The court reporter will also need to prepare a transcript of at least one hearing, and depending on the length of the hearing, this fee can be a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Aside from the expense, in some cases, there is no real appealable issue, making it more difficult to win an appeal.
When there is not a question of law, but only factual disputes, an appeal might prove challenging. This is because the appellate court defers to trial court judges in family law cases, as their interaction with and ability to observe the parties and witnesses puts them in the best position to determine credibility and weigh the evidence (Best v. Best, 941 N.E.2d 499, 502 (Ind. 2011)). The court of appeals does not reweigh evidence or reassess witness credibility and it reviews the evidence most favorably to the decision (Steele-Giri v. Steele, 51 N.E.3d 119, 124 (Ind. 2016)). This means that if there is any evidence to support a factual determination made by the trial court, evidence contradicting the trial courts finding is not reviewed or reweighed and the appellate court will resolve the dispute in favor of the same party the trial court did. While appeals based solely on factual disputes can be problematic, they are not impossible to win.
Appeals concerning questions of law, such as the court applying the wrong law or misapplying the law in light of the facts, are much stronger and a party who has such an issue should contact an experienced appellate attorney right away. If proceeding with an appeal, there are strict deadlines that cannot be missed or the right to appeal may be waived. When an appeal is based on a question of law, the appellate court will reverse the trial court’s decision if it finds the judgement to be “clearly erroneous” (Ind. R. Trial. R. 52(A)). Clearly erroneous means that the there are no facts to support the findings, the findings do not support the judgement, or the trial court applied the wrong legal standard to the facts (In re K.I., 903 N.E.2d 453, 457 (Ind. 2009)).
There are instances in which a party may wish to appeal an order of the court that is not a final order. This type of appeal is called an interlocutory appeal and may require the permission of the trial court, who has discretion as to whether or not to certify its order to the Court of Appeals (Ind. Rule. App. P. 14(B)). Under limited circumstances, an interlocutory appeal may be taken as a matter of right. Indiana Rule of Appellate Procedure 14(A) provides a list of nine situations where permission of the trial court is not required in order to file an interlocutory appeal.
The law can be complex and difficult to navigate. When filing an appeal, one must not only make a strong written argument for reversing the trial court's order but will need to follow very specific rules for formatting court filings and meet strict deadlines. It is recommended that parties consult an experienced appellate attorney as soon as possible after an adverse ruling has been made by the trial court.
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.