About the Appellate Process
If a party is unhappy with the result of their case in an Indiana trial court, they may file an appeal, asking the appeals court to reverse the lower court based on a matter of Indiana law.
The Court of Appeals of Indiana may not decline appeals. Once a case is appealed, the Court does not re-conduct a trial or hearing and no new evidence may be submitted. On appeal, the facts of the case are generally agreed upon.
The Court of Appeals will review the record in the case, including:
- the decision of the lower court
- the briefs submitted by both the appellant (the party seeking satisfaction) and the appellee (the other party). Briefs are each side's written account of the facts of the case, legal arguments, and request for relief; and
- in some cases, the judges or the parties ask for an oral argument to augment the briefs submitted by each side
Oral arguments are usually scheduled in the Court of Appeals courtroom in the Indiana Statehouse. However, some are held in the Indiana Supreme Court courtroom in the Statehouse, typically because the Court of Appeals courtroom is in use.
For years the Court of Appeals has also heard oral argument at sites around the state to enable Hoosiers to learn about the judicial branch. As the Court prepared to mark its centennial in 2001, the members of the Court decided to increase its educational commitment and make this initiative permanent. Between that time and the end of 2016, the Court has heard more than 450 oral arguments at Indiana's four law schools, and at colleges, universities, high schools, retirement communities and other public venues. Learn more.
In cases where there is oral argument, the senior-most judge on each three-judge panel is the presiding judge during the argument: he or she sits in the middle of the panel and will convene and adjourn the oral argument. Each party is usually given 20 to 30 minutes to argue their case. Often the appellant, who goes first, saves some of this time for rebuttal. The judges often interrupt the lawyers with questions. Time is closely monitored.
After oral argument, the judges on the panel meet to consider the case and assign the opinion, which can go through many drafts over a period of weeks or months before a decision is reached. Some cases are decided unanimously, 3-0; others are split 2-1. The Court of Appeals may affirm or reverse the trial court or send the case back to the lower court for further action.
If they wish, the two parties then have the opportunity to appeal the Court of Appeals' decision to the Indiana Supreme Court for further review.