Q: What is the deadline to file an appeal?
A: In Minnesota state court, a notice of appeal from the district court must be filed within 60 days after the entry of judgment or it will be time-barred. See Rule 104.01 of the Minnesota Rules of Appellate Procedure. Some orders that are not judgments may be appealed within 60 days after service of written notice of filing. Many court orders are not immediately appealable.
Q: What if I want to appeal a decision from an administrative law judge, state agency decision, licensing board, or local government body that is not a “judgment” or order from a trial court?
A: The Minnesota Court of Appeals can review certain decisions such as unemployment cases decided by the Department of Employment and Economic Development, state agency or board decisions made pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, and decisions of local cities or counties upon the filing of a petition for a “writ of certiorari.” Be careful! The appeal period and the acts required to invoke appellate jurisdiction are governed by various applicable statutes and you should retain counsel quickly. If filed correctly, “certiorari” in this context is not technically discretionary as it is with the state Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court.
Q: What could the Court of Appeals do with my case?
A: Generally, the Court of Appeals can either affirm or reverse the judgment of the district court. If multiple legal claims are involved the court may reverse some and affirm others. If the Court reverses a judgment it may send the case or claim back (“remand”) for further consideration or determination by the district court, for a new trial, or other action with guidance or instructions by the court. Or it may simply reverse the judgment as a final matter.
Q: What are my chances of winning?
A: The Minnesota judicial branch has not published aggregate data on the percentage of cases affirmed or reversed by the Minnesota Court of Appeals since 2006. That year there were 2,288 dispositions, of which 50% were affirmed, 11% reversed, 5% “mixed”, 27% dismissed and 3% “other”. Source: Minnesota Judicial Branch Report to the Community, Spring 2007. Those statistics include both criminal and civil appeals. The changes of an appellant “winning” a civil appeal (i.e. getting a reversal or remand) is therefore probably less than 50% on a statistical basis.
Q: Can I submit additional or new evidence on appeal if I lost at the trial court?
A: No. Review by the Court of Appeals is based on the evidence in the “record.” You may not submit new affidavits, witness statements, or other evidence.
Q: What is the record on appeal?
A: The record on appeal consists of all documents or pleadings filed in the trial court, the exhibits, and a transcript of any hearings, trials or proceedings. See Rule 110.01 of the Minnesota Rules of Appellate Procedure. “Exhibits” might include exhibits that were not allowed into evidence if the decision not to allow the exhibit into evidence is part of the appeal. Some exhibits can include photographs, videos, and other forms of media or even tangible items.
Q: Can I make new arguments on appeal?
A: An appellant may not raise a new “issue” on appeal that was not raised in the district court below. Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d. 580 (1988). Nor may a party obtain review by raising the same general issue litigated below but under a different theory. Id. An appellant, however, might be able to frame an argument in a slightly different fashion than it was argued at the court below or cite to different legal authority, so long as it relates to an issue that was considered and decided at the district court.
Q: Can I appeal any decision by a judge or just some?
A: Only final judgments are appealable. This would include, for example, a trial verdict (after post-trial motions are exhausted) or dismissal of a case in response to a motion to dismiss or motion for summary judgment. The denial of a motion to dismiss or motion for summary judgment, however, is not appealable. You can request the court to review the denial of a motion to dismiss. This is called an “interlocutory appeal.”
Q: What is an interlocutory appeal?
A: An interlocutory appeal is an appeal of an order not otherwise appealable. It requires a petition which must be filed within 30 days of the filing of the order along with a $550 filing fee. You should not assume that the Court of Appeals will agree to hear an interlocutory appeal.
Q: Do I need an attorney?
A: Individuals are allowed to participate in the court system, including an appeal, without an attorney. This is called appearing “pro se” or on behalf of yourself. An experienced appellate law attorney can be very valuable, however, to identify and organize the legal arguments and apply the evidence in the record to the arguments. Corporations and other business entities must be represented by an attorney in Minnesota courts, including the Court of Appeals.
Q: How much does it cost to file an appeal?
A: To file an appeal you must pay a filing fee of $550 to the court. That is considered a “cost” that is different than the fees you might pay an attorney. There may be other “costs” such as the cost of obtaining and preparing a transcript of the trial or hearing from which you are appealing, as well as the cost of copying, printing, and binding the legal briefs. These costs can be significant, often several thousand dollars. If you cannot afford the filing fee you may ask the court for a waiver.
The cost of hiring an appellate law attorney varies. Most attorneys have a standard hourly rate. If you hire an attorney on an hourly rate you will not know upfront how many hours and how much you will have to pay. Because the process of filing and arguing an appeal is a relatively contained process, some attorneys will take on appeals for a flat-fee ranging in the range of $10,000 to $25,000.
Q: If I have a monetary judgment against me, will filing an appeal stop collection efforts?
A: No. Filing an appeal by itself will not stop collection efforts. To stop collection you must obtain a bond.
Q: If I have an injunction against me, will filing an appeal stop the injunction?
A: No. You can file a motion with the district court to “stay” (stop) the injunction and, assuming that motion is denied, you can file a motion with the Court of Appeals to stay the injunction pending a final decision on appeal.
Q: I won part of my case and lost part of my case. The other side has filed an appeal. Can I cross-appeal?
Q: What are the steps in an appeal?
A: The first step is timing filing a notice of appeal. After that, you must obtain and file a transcript of the trial or hearing, if any. This process can take as long as 60 days but can be less. Once the transcript is delivered you have 30 days to file the opening brief. The other side then has 30 days to file a responsive brief. The appellant (the one starting the appeal) then has 14 days to file a reply brief. The court then sets a date for oral argument. At oral argument, you or your attorney will have 15 minutes to present your case and answer questions from the judges. After oral argument, the Court has 90 days to issue a decision. The court will inform your attorney a few days prior to the decision that it will be issued online. According to a 2007 article in the Journal of Appellate Practice and Process, the average time from case filing to the issuance of a decision in the Minnesota Court of Appeals was 278 days, which was one of the fastest in the country.
Q: Will my case be public?
A: Yes. The decision will be public information. Some decisions are “published” in books called reporters which are published by private companies. But the court has influence on which cases are “published” Only some decisions are designated to be published and they have more importance for precedent. But all decisions are listed on the court’s website and anyone can see them. Evidence in the record is not as accessible but it is also public information unless sealed or subject to a protective order.
Q: How many judges decide the appeal?
A: Appeals are decided by a panel of three judges selected from the total of 19 judges sitting on the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Cases before the Minnesota Supreme Court are heard by all seven members. In the Court of Appeals, a decision can be reached by a two-to-one vote or by a unanimous vote. If a judge dissents from the majority holding, she or he may write a separate dissenting opinion stating their reasons for dissenting.
Q: Why are briefs different colors?
A: In order to easily differentiate, by tradition and according to the rules, If briefs are formally bound, the appellant brief has a blue cover; the respondent brief is red; an amicus brief is green; all reply briefs are gray.
Q: Does the court always allow oral argument?
A: Yes, unless neither party requests it, the parties agree to waive it, if any party is not represented by an attorney, or if the court, in the exercise of its discretion, determines that it is unnecessary.
Q: What is an amicus brief?
A: An amicus curiae or “friend of the court” brief is a written argument filed in an appeal by someone, typically a group or association, that is not a party to the case but has an interest in the subject matter of the legal dispute being decided. An amicus may only file a brief if the court has first granted a request for leave to file a brief.
Q: If I lose at the Minnesota Court of Appeals, can I appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court?
A: If you are not satisfied with the decision of the Court of Appeals in a civil case you can ask the Minnesota Supreme Court to review. This involves filing a petition for certiorari.
Q: What are the chances of the Supreme Court granting a petition for review?
A: In 2018, the Minnesota Supreme Court granted 83 out of 605 petitions for review which is about 13%.