If you have to take a family court issue to trial, you hope the judge applies the law properly. But judges are only human. When a judge makes an erroneous ruling on a key point that materially impacts your case, you may need to seek review in a higher court. At Needle|Cuda in Westport, our attorneys are not just skilled litigators but also experienced Connecticut family law appellate attorneys. If we are your trial counsel, we work to preserve your right to appeal adverse rulings, so that you have an opportunity to seek a remand or a retrial. Conversely, we may work to protect a judgment from missteps by the judicial authority if an appeal is anticipated by the other side. We also handle appeals for clients who were represented by other attorneys at the trial stage.
An appeal is a process to review a judge’s rulings for errors in interpreting or applying the law, or in finding the facts of the case. If during the course of a hearing or trial, the judge made an error of law or procedure, you have 20 days from the final judgment of the court to seek reconsideration of the ruling or file an appeal. What constitutes a final judgment which can be appealed is sometimes itself a complex question. The appeal typically goes before a panel of judges in the Connecticut Appellate Court. Following that decision, a petition may be made to the Connecticut Supreme Court to hear the case, and that Court can choose whether or not to hear the case. The Connecticut Supreme Court generally limits its review to cases of significant public importance. In rare instances, certain pressing cases may have such public importance that the Connecticut Supreme Court will hear them directly. Given the state-oriented nature of family cases, it is the rare matter indeed which can then be further appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Connecticut appeals process
An appeal is not a second trial. No new evidence is submitted. No one testifies. It is based on the record from what happened in the trial court below. Attorneys submit written briefs and argue before the panel of judges. The judges then decide whether to:
There may also be a mix of the above, where certain issues on appeal are affirmed and certain others are overturned.
It may be several months after the case is fully briefed before the appellate hearing, and then another few months before the Court issues its written decision. If state court appeals fail, a petitioner may petition the Supreme Court of the United States to take the case if there is a federal law or U.S. Constitutional issue at stake, although this is exceedingly rare in family cases.
Judges are bound to apply the law based on interpretations made in prior cases. Sometimes there are novel issues that require a judge to explore new legal territory, but in those cases it is all the more important that there be sufficient basis for the decision in the existing law. Judges are often called upon to interpret laws made by the legislature, but they must be careful not to exceed that authority to the point of usurping the legislature’s role.
In our family law practice, we have helped clients appeal rulings on a broad spectrum of family matters, including:
The fact that our family lawyers in Connecticut try cases and handle appeals gives our clients a strong advantage. As your trial counsel, we apply our experience in preserving issues for appeal and we are already knowledgeable about the case, thus saving you the time and expense of having to retain a new attorney for the appeal. Our trial experience also helps us identify trial errors for clients who were represented by other counsel at that stage.
Needle|Cuda in Fairfield County manages appeals to family court rulings throughout Connecticut. We provide highly responsive service and effective representation focused on positive results. To schedule a consultation, call us today at 203-557-9500 or contact our Westport office online.