Five Questions About Appealing Commercial Lawsuits

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Should you appeal from a federal district court final order or judgment that was not in your favor?

Five Questions to Ask When Filing an Appeal from a Commercial Trial Judgment in Federal Court

One of the most important questions facing a business owner who has obtained a less-than-satisfactory result in a federal trial is whether to appeal. Of course, each case is different, but there are some aspects of deciding whether to file an appeal that are fairly universal. The following five questions are only meant to be a starting point. We suggest that you consult an attorney for whether and how these items may apply in your case.

QUESTION #1 – How much time do I have to appeal a commercial case in federal court?

It is important to keep in mind that the right to appeal will expire if you don’t file a notice of appeal within the correct timeframe. In a normal business litigation in federal district court, the typical time to file the notice of appeal is 30 days. However, that should not be relied upon since there are a number of variations in which certain factual circumstances can modify that time period. Furthermore, the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure can be amended from time to time. It is an important enough aspect of preserving your rights that it makes sense to obtain a lawyer to advise you. Without that, you can blow the deadline without even knowing it.

QUESTION #2 – What is the standard for appealing a judgment of the trial court regarding a business lawsuit?

The key aspect to keep in mind is that federal circuit courts of appeal do not generally relish overturning the decisions of trial courts. In the parlance of the law, the circuit courts provide “deference” to the court below. The sorts of matters that are taken up on appeal generally relate to whether the trial court did something or did not do something that was outside the normal parameters of what would arguably be a reasonable approach to the case. Again, in the parlance of the law, was there “clear error” or an “abuse of discretion”? There are other bases upon which to file an appeal, but those are the basic ones.

QUESTION #3 – What do I need to file to start the appeal?

Generally speaking, you must file a notice of appeal. There are other documents that must be filed, as well, but this is generally what starts the ball rolling.

QUESTION #4 – Once the appeal is filed, what else will I need to do?

There are three basic aspects of handling an appeal that typically apply to all matters:

  • filing the record on appeal containing all the underlying documents and evidence that are relevant. (You must also file the transcripts of the trial below, as well as a certified copy of the docket entries issued by the district court clerk.)
  • filing an appeal brief
  • presenting oral argument before the court.

QUESTION #5 – How many appeals do I get?

The federal system usually allows an appeal as of right from the final determination of the federal district court to the circuit court. After that, one might seek to bring a successive appeal of the determination by the circuit court to the United States Supreme Court. However, the vast majority of such petitions for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court are not granted, in other words, most of the time a litigant effectively is only given one appeal.

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Looking for advice?

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Contact the Nissenbaum Law Group to schedule an appointment at 908-686-8000 or feel free to use the following form to e-mail us. Please include as much information as you can to ensure that we are able to handle your request as quickly as possible.

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