I Filed An Appeal. Is There A Stay? (And What Does That Mean?)

by Dana M. Hrelic

One of the first questions I receive when chatting with a prospective client or a new client is: “Well, what happens after we file an appeal? Do I have to do what the judgment says I need to do?” My answer, of course, depends on what kind of case it is and the nature of the judgment that is being appealed. Sometimes the filing of an appeal automatically stays execution of the judgment during the pendency of the appeal. Sometimes the filing of an appeal does not automatically stay the judgment, which means that the litigants must proceed in accordance with the terms of the judgment even though it has been appealed.

The general rule in Connecticut—unlike federal and some other state courts—is that an appeal automatically stays execution, or enforcement, of the judgment. See Practice Book § 61-11(a). A stay typically affects the entire judgment, including those parts that are not challenged on appeal. But our Supreme Court has held that where a judgment is severable—for example, where summary judgment as to one defendant is appealed but a separate summary judgment as to different defendants is not appealed—the automatic stay provision in § 61-11(a) only applies to the judgment from which the appeal was filed. See, e.g., Ruiz v. Victory Properties, LLC, 180 Conn. App. 818, 832–33 (2018); Sovereign Bank v. Licata, 178 Conn. App. 82, 99 (2017).

Practically speaking, this means that the status quo remains frozen in time and the parties do not need to comply with the terms of the judgment until after final resolution of the appeal. In other words, the automatic stay “merely denies [the successful litigant] the immediate fruits of his or her victory . . . in order to protect the full and unhampered exercise of the right to appellate review.” Ruiz, 180 Conn. App. at 833.

In Connecticut, the filing of an appeal does not divest the trial court of continuing jurisdiction to hear and act in the matter on appeal. Ahneman v. Ahneman, 243 Conn. 471, 482 (1998) (“a trial court maintains jurisdiction over an action subsequent to the filing of an appeal”). This contrasts with many other state courts around the country. Connecticut trial courts thus “continue to have the power to conduct proceedings and to act on motions filed during the pendency of an appeal provided that they take no action to enforce or carry out a judgment while an appellate stay is in effect.” Ruiz, 180 Conn. App. at 833. This means, for example, that a trial court could potentially open a judgment despite the fact that an appeal from it remains pending, and it could take action (like reversing itself) that might render the appeal moot. See, e.g., RAL Management, Inc. v. Valley View Associates, 278 Conn. 672, 682, 691–92 (2006).

Terminating an automatic stay may be accomplished by motion pursuant to P.B. § 61-11. Subsection (c) governs the standard by which the stay may be terminated, at the trial court’s discretion, in family matters, and subsection (e) governs such motions more generally. In addition to these provisions, our Supreme Court has articulated a standard for terminating the stay in Griffin Hosp. v. Commission on Hospitals & Health Care, 196 Conn. 451 (1985), which standard should be referenced in requesting the termination of a stay as well.

On the flip side, there are matters where there is no automatic stay after an appeal is filed. They include, pursuant to P.B. § 61-11(b), disciplinary actions concerning attorneys, juvenile matters, and many administrative appeals. P.B. § 61-11(c) also provides that no automatic stay applies to, among others, orders of periodic alimony, support, custody or visitation in family matters.[ N.B. One should always read all relevant statutes and Practice Book sections in order to determine whether a particular matter is subject to a stay or not.] Where there is no automatic stay, a party may always request that one be imposed by motion pursuant to either § 61-11(c) or § 61-12. These motions, like motions to terminate the stay, are heard by the judge who tried the case. The Practice Book also authorizes the trial court, at its discretion, to impose a stay sua sponte after an appeal has been filed.

My hope is that this Tip is useful in serving as a starting point for determining whether a judgment has been stayed after an appeal has been filed. It is not a substitute for reading the Practice Book rules and doing your own research. And of course, if you have any questions about a particular matter, you can always call a member of our Appellate attorneys here at Pullman and we will do our best to guide you to the answer!

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