How Appeals Work
Even if your case has reached a verdict or settlement, you may still have the right to ask another court to review that decision. In many circumstances, and for many reasons ranging from new facts to new laws to certain errors that occurred during the trial the appellate courts will review lower court decisions in civil and criminal cases. The process and procedure for bringing an appeal are complex and an appeal is not automatic in most cases.
Knowing when and if you have the opportunity to appeal, and knowing whether you should appeal a decision, requires the assistance of an experienced attorney. I will assess the reality of your case and evaluate the existing record as well as the governing law in order to give you an honest assessment of your appeal. Essential to evaluating the decision to appeal is communicating to you the costs in time and money as compared to the likelihood of success. I have successfully appealed criminal and civil cases to the Connecticut Appellate Court, Connecticut Supreme Court, and United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
State Court Appeals
In Connecticut, parties in Superior Court matters have an appeal as a matter of right to the Appellate Court. While most cases are appealed to the Appellate Court, certain types of case are appealed directly to the Connecticut Supreme Court.
Judgments and decisions of the Probate Court may be appealed to the Superior Court wherein the probate court sits. The actions of administrative boards (including but not limited to Workers Compensation and Motor Vehicles) may be appealed to the Superior Court. Small claims cases, however, may not be appealed.
Once the Appellate Court issues a final decision, a party may petition the Connecticut Supreme Court to review that decision. Supreme Court review is discretionary. The Connecticut Supreme Court is the final authority on matters of state law. State matters that involve issues of United States Constitutional law may be reviewed by the United States Supreme Court, as that court is the final authority on the federal Constitution. Review by the United States Supreme Court, however, is highly discretionary.
Time To Appeal
If you think you might want to appeal a decision, I am very accessible and can talk weekends and nights if needed. It is very important that you consult an attorney as soon as possible after the final decision. Appeals to the Connecticut Appellate Court must generally be filed within 20 days after the final judgment or order. For a probate appeal, the time limit is either 30 or 45 days depending on the type of case. The record created in the lower court should preserve the right to appeal. If bases for an appeal have not been preserved, or if too much time has passed, sometimes a case cannot be appealed. Only an attorney informed by the records, the facts, the law, and the procedure can provide you with insight regarding your appeal rights.
Federal Court Appeals
A party may appeal federal district court decisions to United States Circuit Courts, and in Connecticut, by the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit considers appeals from the District Court of Connecticut. Federal courts have many rules governing the appellate process, and these rules differ from the rules governing appeals of state court decisions. If you wish to appeal or seek any other post-judgment remedy, please contact me as soon as possible. The earlier you come for a visit, the more options you likely have in your case.
For subsequent proceedings in criminal matters, please see my Post-Conviction Remedies page. In addition to direct appeals, convicted criminal defendants may also seek sentence review and petition for writs of habeas corpus among other remedies. Prisoners also have legal rights, and I am there for these clients and will visit them in prison and represent them in court.
Motions to Reopen and Motions for New Trials
When the time to appeal directly has passed, there may be an issue that allows you to reopen a judgment. In civil cases, you can file a motion to reopen within 120 days of the judgment. There is a difficult test but it is possible in the right circumstances. When a judgment is obtained by fraud or other mistake, there is no time limit to reopen. When new evidence comes to light, there are ways to petition for a new trial or various writs to address the issue.