Appellate Practice

Decisions of trial judges may be appealed seeking reversal of some or all of the trial court judges’ decisions. The first level of appeal in New Jersey is the Appellate Division and the Supreme Court is the last level for appeal in the state courts.

Litigants have the automatic right to appeal from a final Judgment or final Order that resolves all issues as to all parties without seeking permission of the court. Judgments and Orders that are not final as to all issues or as to all parties are known as interlocutory. There is no right to appeal interlocutory Judgments and Orders unless a motion is filed requesting permission to appeal to the Appellate Division. An example of an interlocutory appeal is an appeal from a pretrial Order fixing parenting time in a custody case. Although the case has not yet been tried, if a litigant believes the parenting time Order is in error, a motion is filed requesting the Appellate Division hear an appeal prior to a final Judgment.

Appellate procedure has strict guidelines for filing and processing an appeal. Deadlines are enforced and specifications for the form and content of briefs and appendices are mandatory. It is therefore imperative that the attorney retained for an appeal has the expertise to properly prosecute or defend the appeal. The lawyers at Donahue Hagan Klein & Weisberg have that necessary experience. They will explain to the client the risk/reward ratio in Appellate practice, which includes the estimated cost compared to the chance of success. They will then construct briefs using the facts of the case and the applicable law that will present a compelling argument for either reversal when prosecuting an appeal or affirmance when defending an appeal. Experience in briefing and oral argument before the Appellate Division is critical.

There is no right of appeal to the Supreme Court except where the Appellate Division has a constitutional issue or a dissent from one of the three panelists assigned to the case or if the death penalty has been imposed. However, a litigant can petition the Supreme Court for Certification of an appeal where there is a question of general public importance, which has either not been settled or is pending in another appeal before the Supreme Court or if the decision under review is in conflict with another decision of the same or a higher Court or if the interests of justice requires. It is even more important that a litigant hire an attorney with special expertise to consider addressing matters to the Supreme Court. Most important in family matters is the skill of the attorney in developing the argument in a Petition for Certification that the interests of justice require consideration of the case by the Supreme Court. Frank Donahue, a partner at Donahue Hagan Klein & Weisberg has written several successful Petitions for Certification and has twice argued in the Supreme Court on Family matters.

At Donahue Hagan Klein & Weisberg, we have extensive experience in Appellate matters. We are skilled in Appellate procedure, making certain that our client’s rights on appeal are preserved and are persuasive in making compelling oral arguments to Appellate panels.

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