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Introduction. After months— or years— of work, attorney’s fees, and stress, you may find yourself in the unfortunate position of having lost your case in the trial court. You may have had it dismissed, or your adversary may have been granted summary judgment. Perhaps your case went to trial but the judge or jury found in favor of your opponent. Many times, the right reaction in this situation is to appeal the verdict and continue the fight. How can you do so in a way to maximize the chance of getting the wrongful judgment overturned?
Follow the Rules. First, you must make sure you file the proper procedural steps so that you do not waive your right to appeal. In most instances, you cannot file a notice of appeal if the trial court judgment is not final. For example, if the trial court has granted summary judgment to some, but not all, defendants in your case, you will not be able to file a notice of appeal as to that judgment unless you have those claims and defendants severed from the claims and defendants that remain. Similarly, there are very strict rules about how many days you have to file a notice of appeal after the trial court renders judgment. While those rules and exceptions are too many to address in this post, know that you should contact an appellate lawyer as soon as possible after the judgment has been entered. You may have as few as thirty days to file your appeal.
Get a Bond. Second, know that filing an appeal does not stay execution of the underlying judgment. If you want to stay the judgment while your appeal is pending, which could be years, you should file a supersedeas bond, ask the trial court to allow you to post alternate security to supersede the judgment, or obtain agreement from your opposing party that the judgment will be superseded while the appeal is pending.
Prepare Your File. Third, if the trial court acted as the fact-finder in the proceeding below, be sure to timely request findings of fact and conclusions of law from that court. This will guide the court of appeals to focus on why the trial court ruled the way it did. Without these findings and conclusions, the appellate court can uphold the judgment if it finds any legitimate grounds to do so in the record, regardless of whether the trial court actually relied on those grounds. Note that findings of fact are not appropriate for the court to enter after a jury trial or summary judgment.
Focus on the Law. Finally, know that an appeal is most likely to be granted if you can show that the trial court misapplied the law. A court of appeals is extremely unlikely to quibble with the trial court’s or jury’s findings of fact; unless there is absolutely no evidence to support a particular fact, the appellate court will defer to the fact finder as to issues of weight of the evidence and witness credibility. However, a trial court is not owed any deference when it comes to legal interpretation. Therefore, your appeal is much more likely to succeed if you are able to point out legal errors in the verdict, rather than factual ones.
Find the Right Attorneys. If you are considering filing an appeal or are the respondent in an appeal filed by your adversary, you need lawyers who understand the rules. More so, you need excellent advocates that have the experience and skillset to either secure and defend your judgment or to undo it. Remember, time is of the essence when it comes to appeals. Depending on the judgment, the law only allows a certain amount of days to file your appeal. A free initial consultation with one of our appeals lawyers will give you a better understanding of the process and the likelihood of your victory.
If you consider an appeal or if you need to defend against an appeal in civil or criminal matters in Texas, you should contact the experienced attorneys at Oberheiden, P.C.. Get a free and confidential consultation and benefit from talking to the former federal and former state prosecutors, experienced litigators, and appeal lawyers of Oberheiden, P.C. to assess your case.
This information has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information may constitute attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Reading of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Prior results do not guarantee similar future outcomes. Oberheiden, P.C. is a Texas LLP with headquarters in Dallas. Mr. Oberheiden limits his practice to federal law.