Appellate Procedure Overview
dissatisfied with the final outcome of a case at the trial level may appeal. An appeal is the name of the procedure for a
higher court review of a lower court decision. A party does not always have the right to
appeal. In some cases, for example,
those involving a simple misdemeanor crime
or a small claims action, the party must seek permission from the supreme court
to file an appeal. Additionally, in
limited circumstances, a party may seek an early appeal, or an appeal in
advance of final judgment, by obtaining permission from the supreme court.
Iowa has two appellate
courts, the Iowa Supreme Court
and the Iowa Court of Appeals.
The supreme court is the highest court in our state judicial system and its
decisions are binding on all other Iowa
state courts. The Iowa Court of Appeals hears cases that are assigned to it by
the Supreme Court.
the appellate level, the court does not conduct trials or hear new evidence,
but rather it determines whether legal errors were committed in the rendering
of the lower court's judgment or order.
The appellate court can affirm—uphold the decision or order of the lower
court, reverse—set aside the decision or order, or remand—send the case back to
the lower court with instructions, including instructions to hold a new trial.
party must file a Notice
of Appeal within thirty days of the filing of the challenged judgment or
order. The notice is filed with the clerk of court in the county where the
district court order was entered. The
party filing the notice of appeal is generally called the appellant. The opposing party in the case is usually
called the appellee. The appellee may
file a notice of cross-appeal
if also dissatisfied with the final judgment.
of the Appeal
the filing of the notice of appeal, the parties must comply with a variety of
rules contained in the Iowa Rules of Appellate Procedure. In a typical case,
the appellant orders the relevant and necessary transcripts of
the prior proceedings from the court reporter, and files a certificate with the
supreme court clerk stating that the transcripts have been ordered. The
appellant will then have a certain number of days, depending on the type of
case, to pay a $50 docketing
fee. This fee may be waived in certain circumstances. The payment of the
docketing fee triggers subsequent filing deadlines.
parties are required to file briefs, which
are written documents setting forth the facts, a party's legal arguments, and
the relief sought from the appellate court. The filing deadlines for briefs vary
depending upon the type of case. The parties must also include the portions of
the district court record that are referred to in their briefs in an appendix. The
appendix is a mini record of the trial court proceedings containing those parts
of the transcript, trial court papers, and exhibits most relevant to the issues
raised on appeal. The appellant generally prepares and files the appendix on
behalf of the parties. In their briefs, the parties may request to make an oral argument before the court. Following the filing of the briefs, the
appellant requests the transmission of the district court record to the supreme
court clerk, if not already transmitted.
required for the preparation of a typical case, from the filing of the notice
of appeal to the filing of final briefs, appendix, and the request for the
transmission of the record, is about five or six months. Court rules allow for an expedited process
for certain types of cases, such as child in need of assistance and termination
of parental rights.
Once a case
file is ready, it will be forwarded to a staff of research attorneys who review
the briefs and make recommendations concerning whether a case is appropriate
for retention by the supreme court or transfer to the court of appeals. A rotating panel of three supreme court
justices makes the final routing decision, which is generally based upon the
types of issues raised in the case.
of the Case
sets its own case submission schedule. In
some cases, parties are granted an opportunity to address the court, a process known
as oral argument. During oral arguments lawyers have a brief period of time to summarize
their legal arguments before the court and to answer questions asked by
justices or judges. Both courts have complete discretion whether or not to
grant oral argument and decide many cases without oral argument.
a case is submitted or after oral arguments, the justices or judges will
discuss in private conference, the legal issues presented in the case. Later,
the justice or judge who has been given the assignment of writing the court's opinion
(written ruling) will prepare a draft. The opinion writer circulates copies of
the draft opinion to the other members of the court who may comment on the draft.
A justice or judge who disagrees with the opinion may write a dissent. A
justice or judge who agrees with the result, but not necessarily for the same
reasons, may draft a concurrence.
and Further Review
A party dissatisfied
with a decision may file a petition for rehearing asking the court which heard the case to reconsider
its decision. Rehearing is rarely granted.
opinion is filed by the court of appeals, the parties may seek further review
by the supreme court. This procedure is commenced by filing an application for further review by following the
applicable rules of appellate procedure. The supreme court reviews the applications and
any resistances and decides whether to grant or deny further review.
to the U.S.
Supreme Court is the court of last resort in the Iowa court system, and for the most part,
its decisions are final. However, if a case
involves a federal question, a party may appeal to the United States Supreme
Court. The United States Supreme Court has discretion to decide whether or not
it will hear an appeal.