One important process in our legal system is the ability to petition a higher court to review a lower court’s decision that you feel was wrongly decided. This appellate process is vital in making sure justice is upheld because it allows a losing party in a lawsuit to get a second opinion on how the particular issues of their case were handled. However, as with most other court procedures, the process of appealing a case can be complicated. Seeking counsel from an excellent attorney can make all the difference in whether your case succeeds or fails.
The Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal recently heard a case that dealt with what the proper appeal procedures were. In this case, Mr. Ramirez and Iokon, LLC were appealing a partial summary judgment in favor of their opposition, Mr. Bagot and Evonir, LLC. Their appeal was dismissed as their failure to recognize certain procedures resulted in their forfeiting their right to appeal. Before the appeal process is available, the lower court must issue a final judgment. Here, the judgment was not finalized and instead, the proper procedure was to file for supervisory relief, which Ramirez and Iokon did not do.
One prerequisite before you’re able to appeal a decision in your case is that the case must be decided. This seems common sense – if a case is still ongoing, you can’t claim that the case has been wrongly decided. On the other hand, it is not always obvious whether a judgement from the court is final. Sometimes, as in this case, the judge will give a non-final judgement and it will take a good attorney to know the difference between this type of judgment and a final judgement.
Under the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure, La. C.C.P. art. 966(E), a court can render what’s called a partial summary judgment or partial judgment. This allows a court to rule on one issue while leaving other issues unresolved. For example, if you bring multiple claims against your opponent in the same lawsuit, it can make sense for the court to rule on only one of those claims. When this scenario plays out in a Louisiana court, the judgement is not final unless the court designates that it is final.
According to La. C.C.P. art. 1915 B(1), if you only get a partial judgment on your case and the court does not designate it as final, the judgment cannot be appealed. While this may seem unfair, there are other avenues by which you can obtain review of that partial judgment. One such avenue is filing for supervisory relief under La. C.C.P. art. 2201.
The appellants here, Ramirez and Iokon, did not pursue this alternate route and the District Court declined to change the appeal to a request for supervisory relief. The District Court declined to convert the appeal here because the appellants had not filed their appeal within the 30 day window that would usually be available for the filing of application for supervisory writs.
Moreover, the District Court considered whether there would be termination of the litigation due to their decision or if there were some immediate issues that needed to be resolved before appeal. If there had been an issue that would have resolved the case or an issue where justice required the appellate court to review immediately, the appellants could have still had their appeal converted even though they did not file within the 30-day window. However, the Court of Appeal determined that that was not the case here. This case highlights the importance of hiring an experienced attorney with particular knowledge of a state’s civil procedures. Here, the dismissal could have been avoided if counsel had filed for a timely request of the correct type.
Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Robert Ostrem
Additional Berniard Law Firm Articles on Appeals Errors: What Not to Do When a Motion for Summary Judgment is Denied in Louisiana