Our healthcare and business law firm works with many clients who are involved in litigation. Cases begin by one party bringing an action (the “Plaintiff”) against another party (the “Defendant”) in either a state or federal court. Generally speaking, cases begin at the trial court level; in Georgia, that is State or Superior Court or, if federal, District Court. The cases proceed and the judge or a jury makes a decision on the merits of the case. But what happens if the decision is adverse to your position? What is your recourse? The answer generally is to appeal the decision. This post outlines the basic steps and requirements around appealing a decision or ruling from a Georgia Superior Court.
If the judge in your superior court matter issues a decision, the first step is to determine whether it is appealable. Typically, only final decisions are appealable (those that dispose of the entire matter), which makes sense “to avoid piecemeal or fragmented appeals.” Dep’t of Transp. v. Douglas Asphalt Co., 677 S.E.2d 728, 730 (Ga. Ct. App. 2009). Georgia Code section 5-6-34 provides the rules around when a ruling of the superior court is directly appealable. A few of the appealable decisions are: “(1) All final judgments, that is to say, where the case is no longer pending in the court below . . . ; (4) All judgments or orders granting or refusing applications for receivers or for interlocutory or final injunctions.” If you wish to appeal a decision not listed, the Georgia code allows the trial court to certify a decision for immediate appeal. O.C.G.A. § 5-6-34(b). If the decision you wish to appeal is not listed in section 5-6-34, you may still be able to file a discretionary appeal directly in the Court of Appeals following section 5-6-35.
Steps to Timely Appeal
The next step is to timely decide whether to appeal because the Georgia Code requires a notice of appeal to be filed within 30 days of the appealable decision. O.C.G.A. § 5-6-38(a). But see O.C.G.A. § 44-7-56 (dispossessory actions must be appealed within 7 days). A notice of appeal is an instrument filed in the trial court that initiates the appeal and must include information including the following: (1) the title and docket number of the case; (2) the name of the appellant and her attorney’s information; (3) a concise statement of the appealable decision; (4) the court appealed to; (5) the portions of the record to be sent on appeal; and (6) a statement explaining the appellate court’s jurisdiction. O.C.G.A. § 5-6-37. The appealing party (“Appellant”) must serve all parties to the lower court proceedings as outlined in O.C.G.A. § 5-6-32. O.C.G.A. § 5-6-37.
Note, if the decision appealed is interlocutory, meaning the case before the trial court has not been fully resolved, the notice of appeal does not stay the case before the lower court. Goswick v. Murray Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 636 S.E.2d 133, 138-39 (Ga. Ct. App. 2006) (“Of course, in injunction cases a notice of appeal does not serve as supersedeas [or stay].”). In such cases, the trial court has the authority to issue an order of supersedeas staying the matter pending the interlocutory appeal. See O.C.G.A. § 9-11-62.
Procedure at the Court of Appeals
Once the notice of appeal is filed, a trial court clerk will send the record and any requested transcripts to the Court of Appeals with the notice of appeal. Ga. Ct. of App. R. 11. Only after receiving a complete transmission from the trial court will the Court of Appeals docket the appeal. Once docketed, the Court of Appeals will send a notice to all parties that contains the deadlines for filing briefs, requests to argue, and other calendaring/scheduling information. The notice will also contain a statement that “failure to file the enumeration of errors and appellant’s brief within the time required may result in the dismissal of the appeal and/or appropriate sanctions.” Ga. Ct. of App. R. 13.
Deciding whether to appeal is an important and time sensitive process. Our attorneys are experienced in advising our healthcare business clients on litigation matters, including the availability and propriety of choosing to appeal an adverse decision. If you have litigation or appealability questions or would like to discuss this blog post, you may contact our healthcare and business law firm at (404) 685-1662 (Atlanta) or (706) 722-7886 (Augusta), or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also learn more about our law firm by visiting www.hamillittle.com.
*Disclaimer: Thoughts shared here do not constitute legal advice.