Monday, June 5, 2017

Appeals: A Quick Summary

Quite a lot to know about appeals when preparing for Civil Procedure questions on the MBE. I've written a bit about this previously but this post will summarize the important points to keep in mind:

The federal courts have subject-matter jurisdiction over appeals from all final decisions of the federal district trial courts.  However, as a general matter the federal courts do not have subject-matter jurisdiction over appeals from interlocutory matters (those matters that have not reached final judgement) of the federal district trial courts.

But there are exceptions, and one important exception deals with injunctions.  The federal courts, for the most part, do have subject-matter jurisdiction over appeals from interlocutory orders that grant, deny, or modify an injunction.   And in addition to this specific rule regarding injunctions, the collateral order doctrine provides that a federal trial judge's interlocutory order is reviewable if it conclusively determines claims of right distinct from and collateral to the rights asserted in the action and would be effectively unreviewable if the litigant were required to wait for an appeal.

Regarding the scope of review by a federal court, an alleged error at trial is reviewable on appeal only if preserved on the record.  And even if an error is preserved, it may be unreviewable if a court determines that the issue preserved constitutes harmless error (an error that does not affect the substantial rights of the parties).

Finally, as to the standard of review by an appellate court, this will depend upon whether the alleged error at trial concerned an (1) interpretation of law, (2) an exercise of the court's discretion, or (3) a finding of fact.

Specifically, the appellate court will exercise de novo review of a trial court's conclusions of law. In other words, the appellate court will exercise its own judgment on decided legal issues.  If reviewing a trial court's discretionary ruling that do not implicate legal issues, an appellate court will overturn such discretion by the trial court if the appellate court determines that there has been an abuse of discretion or plain error.  And when reviewing findings of fact by the trial court, an appellate court will only overturn such factual findings if such findings were made by a court (not a jury) and if such findings are clearly erroneous.

No comments:

Post a Comment