A Look at How Appeals Work in Indiana

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Indianapolis Appellate Attorney Blog – Should I File an Appeal, and How Does an Appeal Work?


Many people (or loved ones) call our office after being convicted of or sentenced for a crime.
They want to know what, if anything, may be done to undo what has occurred or to minimize the effects.  Occasionally we receive calls from people with similar questions about various types of civil cases.  For example, decisions by a judge in a divorce case or in some other type of case are often challenged. In this blog the Indianapolis Appellate Attorneys at Banks & Brower take a look at how the appeal process works.
When should an appeal be filed?  The answer to that question depends in large part on your particular case.  Consultation with an attorney should reveal whether there are issues in your case that warrant a second look.  While a decision might not always seem “right” to one party, there are almost always reasonable legal bases upon which the decision was made.  However, this doesn’t mean that the correct decision was made – if the law was black and white there would be no need for lawyers and no need for a Court of Appeals!  While one judge may think the answer is A, another might think it is B.  Not even Court of Appeals judges always reach the same answer in the same case.  An experienced attorney can evaluate your case and present a persuasive argument supporting your position on appeal.
So you have an issue (or issues) worth appealing, now what?  In Indiana, and in most circumstances, each party is entitled to an appeal as of right, whether in a civil or criminal case.  The most notable exception to this rule is that the State of Indiana may not appeal a verdict of not guilty.  This means that an appeal is normally available after a trial judge has entered a judgment.  However, there are strict time limits that must be met in order for an appeal to be sought.
Within thirty (30) days after a final judgment is entered, a party wishing to appeal must file a Notice of Appeal indicating the intent to appeal the decision of the trial court.  There are numerous requirements for this Notice of Appeal, and the Indiana Rules of Appellate Procedure lay out what must be included.  The Notice of Appeal is the first step in securing your right to appeal, and if this deadline is missed you may lose your opportunity to have the Court of Appeals address your case.  Thus, it is urgent to contact an appellate attorney as soon after a judgment as possible to be sure your right to appeal is preserved if appropriate.
Once the Notice of Appeal is filed, the trial court clerk and court reporter are responsible for preparing the clerk’s record and any transcript, if applicable.  These will be prepared by the trial court and used by both parties in preparing their briefs and by the Court of Appeals in reaching a decision.  The clerk’s record and transcript are referred to as the record on appeal, and the issues on appeal must generally come out of either the clerk’s record or transcript.
After the clerk’s record and transcript are prepared, the party filing the appeal must draft and file the Appellant’s brief.  Then, the Appellee (party prevailing at the trial court) must do the same.  After the Appellee files his or her brief, the Appellant has the opportunity to file a reply brief.  This reply brief is like a rebuttal, and it is often the last word before the Court of Appeals renders a decision.  Occasionally oral argument will be set, but this happens in few cases.
So how long does an appeal take?  From filing the Notice of Appeal to a decision, the process can take anywhere from four to seven months in most cases.  The amount of time can vary depending on the length of the transcript to be prepared, if any, and whether any party asks for and is granted an extension of time.  After the Court of Appeals renders a decision, there are several options available for appealing that decision, too, such as a petition for rehearing or a petition for transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court.  If no action is taken within forty-five days after an opinion is issued, the opinion becomes “certified” and is official.
If you or a loved one feels that an appeal may be appropriate, contact the experienced attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC.  We can assist you with an appeal of your civil or criminal case, so let us give your case a second look.  Because of the strict time limits that must be met, it is important to call our Indianapolis appellate attorneys quickly to evaluate your case and preserve your right to appeal.  We can be reached 24/7 at 317-870-0019 or at info@banksbrower.com.