Appellate Procedure

Resource Guide

The most common structure for a state appellate court system involves one court of last resort with largely discretionary review, commonly called a supreme court, and one intermediate appellate court with largely mandatory review.  Because of this jurisdiction, the intermediate appellate court is the court of final review for the vast majority of state court appeals. Ten states are without an intermediate appellate court. Various combinations based on mandatory versus discretionary jurisdiction, size of the courts, use of panels, geographical divisions, and division between criminal and civil jurisdiction by court exist in the state appellate systems.

Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.


Featured Resources

Waters, Nicole, Anne Gallegos, James Green, and Martha Rozsi. Criminal Appeals in State Courts. (September 2015).

The National Center for State courts in conjunction with Westat conducted this study of 5,045 criminal appeals from all 143 appellate courts with criminal jurisdiction.

Doerner, John P. Model Time Standards for State Appellate Courts . (2014). This was a joint project of the Court Management Committee of the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA), with participation from the Conference of Chief Judges of the State Courts of Appeal (CCJSCA), the National Conference of Appellate Court Clerks (NCACC) and the American Bar Association (ABA).
The Role of State Intermediate Appellate Courts: Principles for Adapting to Change. (October 2012). Council of Chief Judges of the State courts of Appeal This white paper examines the evolution of the role of intermediate appellate courts and their core functions and principles.
Appellate Filing and Answer Fees 2014.

Table of filing fees for state intermediate appellate courts and courts of last resort.

Appellate Caseloads.

NCSC Court Statistics Project.

Appellate Court Technology Vendors.

Appellate Court Technology Vendors from the Court Technology Vendor List.

Appellate Justice.

NCSC Area of Expertise.

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Civil Appeals Profile Database and Civil Appeals Profile Reports. The Civil Appeals Profile Database is a compilation of appellate court practices and procedures for civil cases on appeal. Users can view all procedures for a single court or compare procedures across courts, given their particular interest. 

Appellate ADR

Alabama Appellate Mediation Program. This web site describes the Alabama Appellate Mediation Program‘s alternative to the appeals process.
California Mediation Program. The Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District launched the Appellate Mediation Program in October 2006 to speed case resolution and to reduce costs to the litigants and the court.
Bellon, Jeanette and Sharon C. Degnan The Appeal of Appellate Mediation: Making the Case for an Attractive Dispute Resolution Too. (March 2009). The Florida Bar Journal This article discusses the appellate mediation process and the benefits of educating the parties.
Minnesota Family Law Appellate Mediation Program. Referral to mediation takes place after the statement of the case has been filed and the filing fee has been paid, but occurs before the briefing stage and before litigants incur the substantial costs of ordering transcripts from the district court where the case originated.
New Hampshire Appellate Mediation Program. Appellate mediation is designed to provide a final opportunity at the Supreme Court level to resolve most non-criminal cases.
Rhode Island Appellate Mediation. Most civil cases that have been directly appealed from final judgment are eligible for mediation through the program.
Utah Appellate Mediation. The Utah Court of Appeals created the Appellate Mediation Office in 1998 to allow parties an alternative method of resolving their disputes.

Appellate Case Management

E-Filing in State Appellate Courts: An Updated Appraisal (September 2014).

National Conference of Appellate Court Clerks. This 2014 Updated Appraisal provides a state-by-state report on the status of appellate e-filing as an update to the 2010 White Paper (E-Filing in State Appellate Courts: An Appraisal).

Schanker, David E-Filing in State Appellate Courts: An Appraisal. (February 2010). National Conference of Appellate Court Clerks This White Paper is based on a survey of electronic filing in state appellate courts conducted by the National Conference of Appellate Court Clerks (NCACC) in the summer and fall of 2009, supplemented with information gathered from state judicial websites.
The New Appellate Section of the State Court Guide to Statistical Reporting. (2009). Caseload Highlights, Vol. 16, No. 1 This issue of Caseload Highlights, introduces a new national reporting framework for appellate court caseloads.  It gives an en­hanced set of case types and expanded disposition options and recommends a model approach for defining and counting historically difficult elements of appellate court caseloads such as reactivated and inac­tive pending proceedings.  Prior Caseload Highlights dealing with appellate courts include vol. 3 no. 1, vol. 7 no. 2, vol. 8 no. 1, vol. 13 no. 1, and vol. 14 nos. 1 and 2.
Van Duizend, Richard. Introductory Overview of Massachusetts Single Justice Practice. (July 2007).

This memorandum explains the single justice court in Massachusetts, which is a method used to expedite the disposition of certain interlocutory rulings.

Hanson, Roger. Jurisdiction, Caseload, and Timeliness of State Supreme Courts. (June 2001).

A report on the timeliness of state supreme courts. According to the Appellate Court Performance Standards, expedition is one of the three primary goals state appellate courts should try to achieve. The other values are fairness and consistency.

Profiles of Selected Appellate Courts with Civil Jurisdiction. (2001).

This document provides a brief description of selected appellate courts with civil jurisdiction including number of judges, jurisdiction over civil matters, appellate procedures, docketing practices, and mediation/settlement conferences.

Hanson, Roger, Carol Flango, and Randall Hansen. The Work of Appellate Court Legal Staff. (2000).

This study analyzes the function of the appellate court staff in the appellate court system. The research addresses four different areas of study -- the lack of comparative study within this field, the nature of not adequately defining the varying roles within the appellate staff, the lack of comparison of the differing legal roles within the appellate staff, and the lack of investigation about what types of casework the legal staff pursues.

Flango, Carol and David Rottman. Appellate Court Procedures. (1998).

This report provides a comparative analysis of appellate courts including their organization, the steps that appeals follow in each court, the size and composition of the appellate bench, and the management of appellate courts.

Hanson, Roger. The Relative Importance of Resources and Management in Determining Time on Appeal. (November 1998).

This report finds that appellate courts with more resources are more likely to render decisions faster. Uses Pennsylvania as an example of a successful court, and explains how the state maximizes resources and efficiency.

Hanson, Roger. Time on Appeal. (1996).

This book investigates what accounts for the differences in appellate processing times among appellate courts. The author establishes eleven reasons to explain the differences in processing times.

Courts of Last Resort

Christensen, Robert K. , John Szmer, and Justin M. Stritch Race and Gender Bias in Three Administrative Contexts: Impact on Work Assignments in State Supreme Courts. (May 2012). Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory This study uses longitudinal data from all 50 state supreme courts to examine racial or gender bias in assignment of majority opinion writing.
Jefferson, Hon. Wallace B., William Vickrey, and Douglas Denton Opinions as the Voice the Court: How State Supreme Courts Can Communicate Effectively and Promote Procedural Fairness. (2012). Executive Session for State Court Leaders in the 21st Century, Harvard Kennedy School In this paper, the authors draw on the social-psychological field of procedural fairness to demonstrate ways appellate courts can enhance their legitimacy and understanding in the eyes of litigants, attorneys, and the public.
Early Supreme Court Records Will Be Available Online. (March 2011). Missouri Secretary of State News Release The Missouri State Archives has been awarded a grant which will allow them to digitize Missouri Supreme Court cases from 1821 to 1865.  These case files will be available on the Missouri Digital Heritage website.
Rebecca Hulse. Catching the Wave: State Supreme Court Online Outreach Efforts. (2011). National Center for State Courts, Future Trends in State Courts 2011.

State supreme courts have begun to grasp the many ways technology can connect the public with courts. This article will reveiw some of the main trends in state supreem courts' use of the Internet to educate the public about their work.

Shepherd, Joanna Diversity, Tenure, and Dissent . (March 2010). Duke Law Journal, Judicial Workshop Symposium This article analyzes data from the State Supreme Court Data Archive to test the influence of diversity and tenure on judges’ propensity to dissent.
Doerner, John and Roger Hanson. State of Iowa Supreme Court Organizational Assessment and Workflow Review. (April 2008). Court Consulting Services.

This report is a review of the Iowa Court's reorganization plan and an analysis of the workflow process. Iowa uses the "deflective system" in which all cases are initially filed in the Supreme Court followed by a decision regarding retention or transfer to the Court of Appeals. Proposed alternatives to improve efficiency involved the areas of review and decisions on motions, preparation of case statements and routing cases, workflow related to adjudicative functions, and organizational structure.

Criminal

Cauthen, James N. G. and Barry Latzer Why So Long? Explaining Processing Time in Capital Appeals. (2008). Justice System Journal (Vol. 29, No. 3)

This article presents the findings of an investigation of the time expended by fourteen state supreme courts to resolve direct appeals of capital convictions and sentences.

Latzer, Barry and James N. G. Cauthen Justice Delayed? Time Consumption in Capital Appeals: A Multistate Study. (2007). John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York This study focuses on the time taken to process direct appeals of capital cases in the courts of last resort for fourteen states between January 1, 1992 and December 31, 2002. The fourteen states are: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
King, Nancy J., Fred L. Cheesman II, and Brian J. Ostrom Habeas Litigation in the U.S. District Courts. (August 2007). Vanderbilt University Law School This study provides information about the processing of state prisoner petitions seeking habeas corpus relief in U.S. District Courts under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penlty Act of 1996 (AEDPA).
Coyle, Marcia 68 Percent Error Found in Death Case Study. (June 2000). The National Law Journal This article discusses a study by law professor James S. Liebman, of Columbia University, that found federal and state courts have overturned 68 percent of the death sentences they have reviewed because of serious error in their trials.
Hanson, Roger A. Federal Habeas Corpus Review: Challenging State Court Criminal Convictions. (1995). Bureau of Justice Statistics This report examines habeas corpus petitions in 18 Federal Districts located in nine states looking at issues raised, type of offense, sentence, outcome, and reason for dismissal.
Chapper, Joy and Roger Hanson. Understanding Reversible Error in Criminal Appeals: Final Report. (October 1989).

This report studies the outcomes of first-level appeals courts by examining criminal appeals in five states.

Expedited Dependency Appeals

Pierce, Martha Making Appeals More Child Friendly . (April 2004). Utah State Bar Journal 17, no. 3 This article reviews the process Iowa used to make changes in the appellate courts to expedite dependency appeals and discusses how Utah can apply a similar strategy.
Keith, Ann and Carol Flango. A Process for Expediting Dependency Appeals. (2002).

This short report was created to assist appellate courts in streamlining the dependency appeals process. The pamphlet introduces guidelines such as assembling a task force, developing a plan, drafting a rule, and considering strategies for further improvement.

Flango, Carol and Ann Keith. Expediting Dependency Appeals: Strategies to Reduce Delay. (July 2002).

This book examines the effectiveness of expediting appeals for dependency cases in state courts.

Facilities

Appellate Court Facilities Guidelines. (2002). Judicial Council of California, Administrative Office of the Courts This report provides guidelines for building appellate court facilities including sections on general facilities design, courtrooms, judicial offices and support space, court administration, court and building support, and security.  An appendix provides information on lighting, acoustics, and heating, ventilating and air conditioning.

Federal

Moyer, Laura P. et al. The Value of Precedent: Appellate Briefs and Judicial Opinions in the U.S. Courts of Appeals . (2013). Justice System Journal, Vol. 34, No. 1. This study analyzes appellate advocates’ role in shaping judicial opinions in the U.S. Courts of Appeals.
Hooper, Laural, Dean Miletich, and Angelia Levy Case Management Procedures in the Federal Courts of Appeals, Second Edition. (2011). Federal Judicial Center. This report presents information on the case management practices and procedures of the U.S. courts of appeals for 2010 and 2011.
Ryan Salzman, Christopher J. Williams and Bryan T. Calvin. The Determinants of the Number of Amicus Briefs Filed Before the U.S. Supreme Court, 1953-2001. (2011). Justice System Journal 32, no.3. The authors examine the factors that influence the number of amicus curiae briefs filed in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Erin B. Kaheny and Kimberly J. Rice. Threshold Rules as Tools of Deference?: Circuit Judge Gatekeeping in Administrative Agency Cases.. (2010). Justice System Journal 31, no.2.

In this article, the authors investigate the extent to which threshold rules are raised in administrative agency litigation and explore the nature of their use.

Kaitlyn L. Sill, Joseph Daniel Ura, and Stacia L. Hayne. Strategic Passing and Opinion Assignment on the Burger Court. (2010). Justice System Journal 31, no.2. This study extends this literature by developing a theory of the relationship between strategic passing in a conference vote and opinion assignment, which is assessed through a quantitative analysis of opinion assignments made by Chief Justice Burger.
Pamela C. Corley, Udi Scimmer, Amy Steigerwalt and Artemus Ward. Extreme Dissensus: Explaining Plurality Decisions on the United States Supreme Court. (2010). Justice System Journal 31, no.2. This article presents the first systematic analysis of plurality decisions.
Artemus Ward and Stephen L. Wasby. Get a Life!: On Interviewing Law Clerks. (2010). Justice System Journal 31, no.2. The authors discuss both theoretical and practical aspects of interviewing clerks, including how to approach potential respondents, the types of questions to ask, and issues about clerk-judge confidentiality.
Baker, Thomas E. A Primer on the Jurisdiction of the U.S. Courts of Appeals 2d Ed.. (2009). Federal Judicial Center A brief overview of the subject matter jurisdiction of the U.S. Courts of Appeals including appeals from final decisions, interlocutory appeals, writs, criminal appeals, and administrative appeals. 
Ryan C. Black and Ryan J. Owens. Analyzing the Reliability of Supreme Court Justices' Agenda-Setting Records. (2009). Justice System Journal 30, no.3.

This study examines the Supreme Court's agenda-setting records.  Nearly all aspects of the Supreme Court's decision-making process occur outside the public eye and any attempt to understand them is done by analyzing voting ways.  The authors want to validate this type of research through past judge's papers made public.

Edwards, Harry T. The Effects of Collegiality on Judicial Decision Making. (May 2003). University of Pennsylvania Law Review Judge Edwards discusses the impact of collegiality on decision making based on his experiences on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Federal Judicial Center: Appellate Case Managment. The Federal Judicial Center site provides available resources on the topic of appellate case managment.
Spaeth, Harold The Supreme Court Database. National Science Foundation The Database contains over two hundred pieces of information about each case decided by the Court between the 1953 and 2008 terms. Examples include the identity of the court whose decision the Supreme Court reviewed, the parties to the suit, the legal provisions considered in the case, and the votes of the Justices.

Intermediate Appellate Courts

Comparative Attributes of Legal Staff in Intermediate Appellate Courts. (April 2011). Council of Chief Judges of the State Courts of Appeal This white paper provides the results of a survey on the use of legal staff in intermediate courts of appeal (IAC) focusing on IACs of different sizes.
Oregon Court of Appeals Annual Report. (2009).

This report focuses on the development of the court's workload and on the steps that the court has taken and will continue to take to meet workload and resource challenges.

Doerner, John, Christine Markman, and Roger Hanson. Workflow Study Minnesota Court of Appeals. (2007). Court Consulting Services.

The primary objective of this workload study is to address the case backlog and identify possible methods for reducing it. The study's three critical objectives are: identifying bottlenecks in the processing of appellate cases, proposing methods to reduce backlog, and developing case complexity descriptions that will allow the Court to better track workload trends.

Binford, W. Warren H, Preston C. Greene, Maria C. Schmidlkofer, Robert M. Wilsey and Hillary A. Taylor Seeking Best Practices Among Intermediate Courts of Appeal: A Nascent Journey. (Spring 2007). The Journal of Appellate Practice and Process In 2006, the Willamette Court Study Committee went on a quest to uncover the best practices in intermediate appellate courts.
Report to the 74th Regular Session of the Nevada State Legislature, 2007 Regarding the Creation of the Nevada Court of Appeals. (March 2007). Supreme Court of Nevada A detailed report outlining the necessity of creating an intermediate court of appeals in Nevada.  It offers a comparison of other jurisdictions with and without an intermediate court of appeals.
Oregon Court of Appeals Internal Practices Guidelines. (July 2007). Oregon Judicial Department This publication describes the internal workings of the court, from filing of documents that trigger the court's appellate jurisdiction to the issuance of judgments that end it.
Hall, Daniel. Colorado Court of Appeals Workload Analysis. (September 2005).

The purpose of this workload assessment model is to provide an objective uniform, and realistic methodology for judgeship needs and resource allocation for the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Opinions

Citation of Unpublished Opinions Committee Interim Report to Wisconsin Supreme Court. (May 2009). A committee has been established to review the effect of a new Supreme Court rule on citing unpublished opinions. The rule allows unpublished but authored opinions issued after July 1, 2009 to be cited for persuasive but not precedential authority.
In Re: Arkansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Rules 5-2. (May 2009). Supreme Court of Arkansas Effective July 1, 2009 the electronic version of appellate decisions posted on the Arkansas Judiciary website will be the official report of those decisions.  Publication of the Arkansas Reports and Arkansas Appellate Reports will end.
Hanson, Roger. Use of Short Opinions in Selected Intermediate Appellate Courts. (2004).

This report provides information concerning the use of short opinions in four state intermediate appellate courts. They are: New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division; Alabama Criminal Court of Appeal; Alabama Civil Court of Appeal; Pennsylvania Superior Court; Florida District Courts of Appeal.

Oregon Appellate Courts Style Manual. (2002). Oregon Judicial Department Oregon Appellate Courts have adopted this style manual as a guideline for writing opinions.  It is not all-inclusive nor an attempt to dictate writing style. See ORAP 5.20(4) (referring to Style Manual as guide to conventions in style and citation). 

Organizations

Bibliography of Appellate Practice Books, Manuals, and Articles. American Academy of Appellate Lawyers This extensive bibliography includes a section on state appellate practice manuals and articles.
National Conference of Appellate Court Clerks. The National Conference of Appellate Court Clerks was organized in 1973, with current members throughout state and federal appellate courts.

Performance Measurement

Recommended Tools for Evaluating Appellate Judges. (October 2013). Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System. IAALS has created new customizable tools for states, bar associations, or citizens groups to gather information about their appellate judges.
Hon. David Brewer. Appellate Court Performance Measurement: Transforming Processes and Building Trust in the Oregon Court of Appeals. (2010). National Center for State Courts, Future Trends in State Courts 2010.

In an era when technological and cultural changes abound, courts must keep pace or risk the erosion of public trust and confidence.  The deployment of modern case management systems that facilitate the objective measurement of institutional court performance over time is a bulwark in the defense of public justice.

John Doerner and Ingo Keilitz. Performance Measurement and Management in State Supreme Courts and Intermediate Courts of Appeal. (2009). National Center for State Courts, Future Trends in State Courts 2009.

This article describes performance measurement and performance management in state appellate courts.

Performance Measures Key Results and Measures. (January 2009). Minnesota Judicial Branch This report contains the complete results for the Judicial Branch performance measurement effort including appellate data.  
Montana Supreme Court Performance Measures. (2008). This survey of appellate lawyers, district court judges and Montana Law School faculty was used to rate the court’s performance.
Oregon Court of Appeals Survey of Appellate Bar and Trial Bench . (March 2007). This online survey of attorneys and Circuit Court judges involved with cases decided by the Court of Appeals from July to December 2006 looked at factors of quality, timeliness and efficiency, and public trust and confidence.
Hanson, Roger. Appellate Court Performance Standards and Measures. (1999).

This report provides information on performance standards for the states' appellate courts. Some of the topics included in this handbook are protecting the rule of law, promoting the rule of law, preserving the public trust, and using public resources efficiently.

Hanson, Roger. Appellate Court Performance Standards. (1995).

These fifteen standards of performance pertain to four performance areas:  protecting the rule of law, promoting the rule of law, preserving the public trust, and using public resources efficiently.

Pro Se Appeal Guides

California: What is an Appeal. Superior Court of Sacramento
Florida: The Pro Se Appellate Handbook. The Florida Bar Appellate Practice Section
Kentucky Court of Appeals: Basic Appellate Practice . (2010).

This handbook is designed to benefit attorneys and pro se litigants.

Louisiana: Pro Se Manual. Third Circuit Court of Appeals
Maryland Court of Special Appeals - A Guide for Self-Representation . (May 2012). This guide walks non-lawyers through the appeals process including requirements for court filings, definitions and sample documents.
Minnesota: Self Help Center. Minnesota Court of Appeals
South Carolina Appeals. These questions and answers are designed in part to help non-lawyers prepare an appeal to the South Carolina Court of Appeals.
Pro Se Litigants Filing Guide for the Appellate Courts of Tennessee. (March 2010). Appellate Court Clerk`s Office
Texas Young Lawyers Association Pro Se Litigant Guide. (2014).

Statistics and Trends

Principles of State Appellate Judicial Disqualification. (April 2010). American Academy of Appellate Lawyers This paper is an effort to begin establishing the principles that should govern the disqualification of appellate judges following the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Caperton v. Massey.
Waters, Nicole. Percent of Oral Arguments Held in Civil Appeals, by Court. (2009).

The NCSC collected these data as part of the Civil Justice Survey of State Courts, 2001-2005, Supplemental Study of Civil Appeals with funding from BJS.  This study examined 1,204 tort, contract, or real property appeals from civil bench and jury trials held in 2001 in 46 large, ur­ban courts.

Appellate Evaluation of Judges Eligible for Retention in 2008. (May 2008). Alaska Judicial Council This memorandum provides an explanation and examination of the review process used to evaluate superior and district court judges’ performance based on their civil and criminal affirmance rates.
Eisenberg, Theodore and Michael Heise Plaintiphobia in State Court? An Empirical Study of State Court Trials on Appeal. (May 2007). Cornell Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series. This study presents a statistical model of the appeals process for a comprehensive set of state court civil trials using data from 46 large counties.  The study found that the reversal rates for jury trials and appeals by defendants exceeded the reversal rates for bench trials and appeals by plaintiffs.
Cohen, Thomas H. Appeals from General Civil Trials in 46 Large Counties, 2001-2005. (June 2006). Bureau of Justice Statistics This report presents information on general civil cases concluded by bench or jury trial in 2001 that were subsequently appealed to a State’s intermediate appellate court or court of last resort.
New Mexico Court of Appeals: Statistics. The Court of Appeals compiles statistics on how long it takes to decide an appeal, as well as how long the various steps on an appeal take, on how many cases are affirmed and reversed, and on the number of dispositions.