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How do cases arrive before the Federal Courts of Appeal?
The method by which a case arrives before an appellate court varies based upon the type of appellate court.
US Circuit Courts of Appeals – The US Courts of Appeal hear cases appealed from the Federal District Courts. Like all appellate courts, the Courts of Appeal review cases to determine:
- whether the correct law was applied, and
- whether it was applied correctly, and
- whether the law, as applied, violates rights provided by the US Constitution.
Generally, appeals derive from a request by the losing party at trial. In some cases, however, a party may make an interlocutory appeal, which is an appeal of a single issue before the case has been decided. This is only allowed, however, when the issue is extremely important or would effectively decide the case. The losing party generally requests permission to file an appeal with the Court of Appeals. The court will either grant the request or deny it – making final the decision on the appealed issue.
- Relevant Law: Rule 18 of the Supreme Court Rules, provides the procedure for appeal from a district court ruling. 28 USC 2107 outlines the time period for appeal.
Discussion: Do you think that interlocutory appeals should be allowed? What are some good arguments for allowing such appeals? Arguments against them?
- A primary reason for allowing an interlocutory appeal is when the issue being appealed would determine the outcome of the case. If the matter would not be outcome determinative, there is an argument that allowing such appeals is nothing more than a delay tactic that hinders the ability of the judiciary to successfully process cases.
Practice Question: ABC, Inc., is facing a civil lawsuit in federal district court initiated by one of its employees for allegedly failing to provide the required disclosures about the company-sponsored retirement plans. The applicable federal law lays out numerous standards for plan disclosure and provides that a company that fails to comply will be subject to actual and statutory damages. ABC believes that the law is ambiguous and does not require the disclosures identified by the plaintiff. During trial, ABC moves for the court for a directed verdict in its favor. The court denies the motion. ABC knows that continuing to a jury trial will cost lots of money and that a jury is always likely to find in favor of an employee over an employer. Nonetheless, ABC does not want to settle the case and leave open the question of whether it must comply with this level of disclosure. What are ABC’s options regarding appealing any outcome from the trial court?
- ABC may make an interlocutory appeal. If granted, the appellate court may determine that such a requirement is outside of the intent of the relevant statute. If so, this would be determinative of the outcome of the case.
Lammon, Bryan, Finality, Appealability, and the Scope of Interlocutory Review (March 13, 2018). 93 Washington Law Review 1809 (2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3139926