2014 has brought me an uptick in consultations with individuals who decided to represent themselves in court, taking their cases all the way to trial, and then when they lost, they now want to hire an attorney to appeal their loss. While generally, you are entitled to appeal a trial decision (assuming you file your notice of appeal within the time required by the rules – a very important deadline to know), it is very important to look at the reasons that the court decided the case the way it did.
This year I’ve seen two individuals who were looking to appeal decisions that were issued a long time ago. In one instance, the trial had occurred more than one year before the prospective client met with me and for reasons only known to that person, they waited too long to talk to an attorney. While attorneys are able to guide you through the various facets of the law, there are very definite time limits of when things need to be done.
Some of the more focused prospective clients at least came to their consultation within the time limits required by the rules. For those, there can also be other hurdles built into their case. One of the downsides of representing yourself at trial is that you are bound by the same rules as someone who is represented by an attorney. So, if the Court threw out your case because you failed to submit evidence supporting your case, it is going to be quite an uphill battle on appeal if you have no evidence to support your case.
In one case, the prospective client brought the evidence that they wanted to present at trial, but didn’t present because they were not sure if the judge wanted to consider it. Because they didn’t give the evidence to the judge, and the judge ruled against them, they now wanted to appeal and show the appellate court the evidence. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the system works. The court that considers your appeal can generally only look at the evidence that was presented at the lower court, not other documents that you forgot to give to the Court.
While you can get an appellate court to reverse certain issues on appeal, if you failed to follow the rules at the lower court, sometimes it can’t be cured.
For more information on appeals or to schedule a consultation, please contact my office (718.568.0221 or 908.698.0417) or contact me through my website (AndrewMAyers.com).