Unfair Trials and Hearings.
Judges make mistakes leading to unfair results. We all know that. This happens both in civil cases and in criminal cases. Thankfully, judges are not immune from having their errors exposed, and from being forced to fix their mistakes by judges above them.
The appellate courts in Colorado are available to you to examine those mistakes, and issue orders which restore fairness to the legal system.
The Colorado Court of Appeals and the Colorado Supreme Court have acknowledged that no trial has ever been conducted without some error on the part of the judge.
Although not every error by a judge is serious enough to change the outcome, the law books are full of examples of the Colorado Court of Appeals taking action on serious judicial mistakes, and ordering the judge below to restore fairness.
The twenty-two judges of the Colorado Court of Appeals sit in a number of three-judge panels, and together participate in more than two hundred appeals every year. That is good, because no single judge decides any case by himself. More legal minds thinking on the same matter helps reduce further errors. So, you can see how many people just like you have decided to expose the judge’s errors to those appellate judges above him.
It doesn’t matter whether you won in the trial, you may be in the appeals court after that trial. Even if you won the case, and didn’t take action to protect the case from a successful appeal, you may still lose it in the Court of Appeals. It’s wise to have an appellate lawyer involved in your case early-on, to protect your case from any errors that might result in a successful appeal by your opponent.
If you have experienced an unfair result in a civil trial, a criminal trial or an administrative hearing, call us. We will make certain that the error that caused an unfair outcome in your trial will be presented to one of the three-judge panels, and we will give them good reasons to restore fairness in your case.
When can I appeal?
Before and even during the trial.
There are some mistakes that the judge can make before the trial which are so serious that you can bring that matter immediately to the Colorado Supreme Court, asking for an order requiring the judge below to do (or not to do) something that is extremely unfair. This is because the Colorado Supreme Court is the supervising “boss” of all the other judges in Colorado.
These mistakes are those which completely change the normal flow of a case, and which are so bad that they cause one side of the case to be unfairly disadvantaged, and ruin the chance of a fair trial later on. If the mistake is so bad that even an appeal after the case is over can’t fix it, the Supreme Court can intervene right away to set things right. An example of one such mistake is when the judge in the trial court is clearly biased toward or against one side of the case so as to prevent fairness, and he refuses to step back so that another judge can handle the case. Another example is when the judge unfairly prevents one side from getting information from the other side, which should be provided under the law. Another example is where the judge below does something he does not have the jurisdiction to do. And there are many other examples as well.
The Colorado Supreme Court has the option to issue the order, and set the case back on a proper footing, or it can refuse to intervene, telling you to present the matter first to the Colorado Court of Appeals. If that happens, you must wait until there is a final order in the case to appeal.
There are some very limited opportunities to take a matter up on appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals before the trial. An example of a rare type of appealable order would be if you asked for a preliminary injunction to stop the construction of a building which was partly over your property line, and the judge refused to stop the construction. Of course, once the building is finished, it would be unlikely that the judge would order it to be demolished, and so a trial wouldn’t be able to fix the problem. In this example, an appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals even before the trial went forward is appropriate. This is called an “interlocutory appeal”.
After the trial.
Normally, you cannot file an appeal in your case unless you have a “final judgment or order”. This is a document, signed by the judge, which decides all the different controversies in the court, and leaves nothing yet to be determined.
In a civil or criminal case, that means that the final judgment is issued by the judge. In an administrative hearing, it means that the judge has issued its final order.
The idea is that a judge can realize his mistake, and fix it any time before the final judgment or order, and the appeals courts want to give the judges below every chance to get it right before an appeal can be filed.
Once the initial appeal paperwork has been filed, the judge below can’t do anything else in the case to harm you. So, you can take some comfort in that. And he knows that he’s about to see us expose his actions before higher judges in some detail. And he can’t do anything to stop it. He can’t even call the higher judge to try to lobby him to go easy on him. We are now in the driver’s seat for a change.
Act quickly, or you can lose your rights!
The date of the judgment or final order is the day that the judge signs it. On that day a clock starts ticking, and your time to file your appeal is already short.
You have only forty-nine days from that day to file the proper paperwork to begin the appeal. There can be some post-trial motions which extend this deadline, but if you miss it, you forever lose your opportunity to appeal this case!
If you are wishing to file an interlocutory appeal, you only have fourteen days to file the appropriate appellate paperwork.
This initial appellate paperwork is often somewhat difficult to prepare, and requires us to do some research into what happened in the case that is worthy of appeal, so contact us on the very first day that you believe you might have an appeal. There is no penalty for being ahead of deadlines, but missing them kills your appeal!
How hard is an appeal?
If you are at the point in any litigation where an appeal is being considered, you have already been deeply disappointed in the legal system. You have probably had to answer formal questions, maybe even sat for sworn testimony (a deposition), and had to give up many documents to the other side, which are deeply personal. You probably also had to sit in a trial, where you watched the give-and-take of a trial, and felt very much out of control.
You may have already endured months, if not more than a year, of the brutality of the trial of your case. In appeals, that brutality is over.
During an appeal, your attorneys deal only with legal issues, and the atmosphere is far more dignified. The process is complicated and somewhat hurried at the outset, then things settle down during the latter part of the process into a comfortable pace. But you don’t have to do much of anything, but relax, and let us do what we do best. It’s the most relaxed and comfortable part of any case.
Appellate law is a narrow specialty, and few Colorado attorneys know much about it, and even fewer attorneys practice in this area. For us, this area of law is challenging, but we do it all the time. For you, it is relaxed, and easy.
The process of an appeal doesn’t involve any further testimony. An appellate court doesn’t “retry the case”, but rather looks at what happened in the court below, and makes a determination whether there is a need to make an order which will right a wrong. They make that decision based upon the documents and transcripts which are sent to them by the lower court, along with legal briefs filed by the attorneys. The appellate court allows us to come before them and explain in detail why we should win the appeal. You have probably heard that referred to as “oral argument”, and that is a pretty good description.
You can attend the oral arguments, but you need not do so. After oral arguments, the appellate court doesn’t immediately make a decision. They simply leave the bench, and then go back to their offices to further deliberate.
The entire process, from start to finish, can take about a year. During that time, you get on with your life. We will keep you posted with updates on important events as they occur.
Then, at some point in the next few weeks, they will finally render their final opinion, in writing. They will make a ruling on all the various errors that we pointed out to them. They can agree with us on some or all of the errors that we brought up to them, or they can disagree.
Thankfully, we have a pretty good record of getting these appellate judges to agree with us that they should do something to make things right, and in those cases the judges issue an opinion which tells the trial judge to fix the mistakes he made.
What about the Colorado Supreme Court?
On occasion, the judges of the Colorado Court of Appeals make mistakes as well, and issue an opinion which is not consistent with what the law says it should be. Also, there are some occasions when the various separate panels of the appellate court issue opinions which don’t even agree with each other on the same legal issue.
In those cases, we can ask the Colorado Supreme Court to correct the errors of the Colorado Court of Appeals. It is up to them whether they want to take these cases, and they don’t always do that. But if the law in Colorado needs to be clarified in a certain area that we are presenting, then they will often seize the opportunity to hear the case, and issue an opinion which in some way either shapes the law of Colorado, or clarifies it so that people can know what is expected of them.
If the Colorado Supreme Court accepts your case for further review, we begin the briefing process all over again. Thankfully, most of the hard work is already done in the earlier appeal, and this process is easier yet. These judges always require oral arguments in these kinds of cases. Again, you are not required to do much at all during this time. You can get on with your life.
Appeals to the Colorado Supreme Court might take another two years. We wish it were quicker, but we are required to work on their schedule, not ours.
Will the U.S. Supreme Court hear your case?
The U.S. Supreme Court is very picky about what they will accept, and what they won’t. The judges vote on that question and most cases are not accepted. But there is the occasional case that is so important to the law of the land, that they see an opportunity to use it to mold the law in a certain area.
Once we have finished all the appeals possible in the state of Colorado, we can facilitate an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the chances are very slim of getting them to hear a case. But as they say, you never win unless you try. And we are willing to put an amazing amount of effort into getting your case in front of them, if that is what we jointly decide is the proper way to go.