If you go to trial and lose, you may wish to have the trial court’s decision reviewed and potentially reversed by the Court of Appeal. Even if a case does not proceed through trial, but you lose on a motion (for example, a motion to enforce arbitration, a demurrer, a motion for judgment on the pleadings, or a motion for summary judgment) before the trial court, you may also have the right to an appeal.
Time Limits for Filing an Appeal:
The deadline to file an appeal depends on whether you are served with written notice entry of the trial court’s order or judgment, or a file-stamped copy of the judgment or order.
If you were served with a written notice of entry of the trial court’s order or judgment (whether by the court clerk or the opposing party), you have 60 days from the date the written notice was served to file your notice of appeal. It is important to note that there is no extension of this time period if the notice of entry of the judgment or order was served by mail or overnight mail. In other words, the 60 day period begins to run the date the written notice was served, regardless of the date you receive the notice.
If you were not served with a written notice of entry of the court judgment or order, then you have 180 days from the date the court entered the order or judgment within which to file your Notice of Appeal. But don’t take any chances. It is always better to be on the safe side and file within the 60 day period. If it is the case that your opponent filed a “notice of entry” claiming to have served you at your proper address, the 60 day deadline will apply even if you did not actually receive the notice!
If the deadline to file your notice of appeal falls on a weekend or holiday, the deadline is extended to the next day that is not a holiday.
The Standard of Review:
The chances of success on appeal depends, to a certain degree, upon the “standard of review” the Court of Appeal will apply to your case. There are three standards of review that may apply to your appeal. 1) the “de novo” standard; 2) the “abuse of discretion” standard; and 3) the “substantial evidence” standard.
Review of the sufficiency of the evidence: This standard of review often applies in appeals from a judgment after a trial. It also applies to any decision by a court resolving any disagreement regarding the facts which actually occurred. As an appellant, this is a very daunting standard to overcome.
Essentially, so long as there is some substantial evidence to support what the trial court or a jury decided, this decision will not be disturbed on appeal. The fact that there may be substantial evidence to support a contrary finding makes no difference. The Court of Appeal will not second guess the trial court or a jury’s decision regarding what happened. For example, the Court of Appeal will not decide that one witness should believed over another. Or even if five witnesses testified favorably to the appealing party, but only one witness testified in favor of the party who won at trial, the Court of Appeal will not reweigh the testimony and reverse the decision. Under the substantial evidence standard, the Court of Appeal must affirm the decision in the trial court even if the Court of Appeal would have ruled differently based on the same evidence.
Abuse of Discretion Standard applies to any decision that judge makes that is within the trial court’s discretion. Under this standard, the Court of Appeal determines whether (based upon the facts and evidence), the judge acted within the permissible range of the law. Examples of judge’s rulings which are reviewed under the abuse of discretion standard are rulings regarding: whether certain evidence should be allowed at trial, whether to grant or vacate an injunction, whether to disqualify an attorney, the amount of attorney’s fees to award to a party who is entitled to recover attoney’s fees, and whether to impose sanctions, whether to permit expert witness testimony, and whether to grant a trial continuance.
Under the abuse of discretion standard, the Court of Appeal will affirm the judge’s decision so long as the judge acted within the permissible range of the law.
“De Novo” or independent review applies when the facts are not disputed and the court is merely interpreting how the law should apply to the undisputed facts. Examples of issues in which de novo review applies includes: 1) whether a contract is legal; whether a rule or law is constitutional or valid; whether federal or state law should apply to a particular dispute; how the terms of a contract should be interpreted if there is an ambiguity; whether one person (based on undisputed facts) owes a duty of care to another; and whether (based on facts which are undisputed) the court has jurisdiction over the parties. In sum, the “de novo” standard of review will apply to any situation where the facts are not disputed and the court must merely apply the law to the undisputed facts.
Under the “de novo” review standard, the Court of Appeal reviews the trial court’s decision independently and anew. In that regard, the Court of Appeal gives no consideration to the trial court’s ruling or the reasons for its ruling.