When Can I File an Appeal?

by Dana M. Hrelic

As an appellate lawyer with considerable experience in both state and federal appellate courts, I often receive calls from colleagues who are either in the midst of trying a case, or who have just received a decision or judgment in a case, looking to bend an ear.

If you are one of these lawyers, please – keep calling! I always enjoy our chats and look forward to the next time the phone rings.

But, because I so frequently am asked the same or similar questions, I was inspired to start reaching out with my thoughts on these, and perhaps other, probing questions.

These tips are not meant to replace our calls. (So I’ll say it again—keep calling!) Rather, take them for precisely what they are: short answers to commonly asked questions. Maybe they’ll help you in a pinch, or maybe they’ll remind you to call me so I can help you in a pinch. Either way, I hope they are of some help.

Keep an eye out for these tips each month, as I will send a different one out each time. I also take requests, so feel free to reach out and let me know your burning questions. And finally, don’t wait till next month for the help you need today—call me anytime, any day if I can ever be of assistance talking through issues, developing strategy, recommending next steps, pursuing post-judgment action, or even just interpreting the almighty Practice Book. I am always happy to help!

When Can I File An Appeal?

The short answer to this question is that, in most cases, you can only file an appeal from a final judgment. P.B. § 61-1; State v. Curcio, 191 Conn. 27, 30 (1983) (“The statutory right to appeal is limited to appeals by aggrieved parties from final judgments.”). There are a number of different types of judgments from which an appeal may be taken as of right; the majority of calls I receive concerns final judgments or other final actions of the Superior Court. Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 52-263; 51-197a.

How do you know if a judgment is final? Many judgments are clearly final in that they conclude the proceedings for all parties before the Superior Court. Others are clearly interlocutory, as they do not conclude any rights between the parties and occur in the midst of ongoing Superior Court proceedings. But others? These are typically the situations where I receive a phone call. The answer isn’t simple, but it starts with our Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Curcio.

In Curcio, the Supreme Court stated that an otherwise interlocutory order is appealable in two circumstances: “(1) where the order or action terminates a separate and distinct proceeding, or (2) where the order or action so concludes the rights of the parties that further proceedings cannot affect them.” 191 Conn. at 31.

For example, in family law matters, pendente lite orders of physical custody are considered final judgments for the purposes of appeal “because an immediate appeal is the only reasonable method of ensuring that the important rights surrounding the parent-child relationship are adequately protected,” consistent with the Curcio prongs. Madigan v. Madigan, 224 Conn. 749, 757 (1993).

If a ruling is not immediately appealable, it may be appealed later when there is an appealable final judgment. Breen v. Phelps, 186 Conn. 86, 90 n.6 (1982).

What about where there are multiple parties, counterclaims, and/or cross complaints? When judgment is rendered on an entire complaint, counterclaim, or cross complaint, the judgment is final and appealable.

Do I need to file a notice of appeal? If such a judgment is rendered but there remains an undisposed complaint, counterclaim or cross complaint against other parties, appeal may be deferred (absent objection by the appellee) until the entire case is concluded. If a party wishes to appeal such a final judgment but chooses to defer doing so, it must file a notice of appeal in order to preserve the right to appeal that judgment at the conclusion of the case. P.B. § 61-2.

How long do I have to file my appeal? 20 calendar days. The day you receive notice of the decision is day zero. If the 20th day falls on a weekend or a day the court is closed, the due date is extended to the next business day.

In short:

Scenario What to do
Judgment on entire case Appeal within 20 days
All claims against one party in a complaint,  counterclaim, or cross complaint concluded Appeal within 20 days or file notice of intent to appeal within 20 days
Judgment on entire complaint but counterclaim or cross complaint remains, or vice versa If remaining case applies to all parties, appeal within 20 days or do nothing
All claims against one party in a complaint,  counterclaim, or cross complaint dismissed Appeal within 20 days or file notice of intent to appeal within 20 days
Some claims in a complaint, counterclaim, or cross complaint against a party are concluded but other claims remain against same party Not typically appealable

When in doubt, don’t hesitate to give me or any of our appellate attorneys a call and we can work through it together!

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