6. APPEALS

Question:
What Is An Appeal?

Answer: 
When one party (or sometimes both) is aggrieved by an order or judgment from the trial court, that party has the right to appeal to the appropriate appellate court to obtain a determination of whether the order or judgment was correctly made. While appeals are always important to the immediate parties involved, they may take on a far greater significance because an appellate court's ruling on a particular legal principle will apply to all similarly situated cases. An appeal is not a trial. No witnesses take the stand, and no new documents are reviewed. Rather, the appellate court views the same materials as the trial judge and determines (based on that evidence and the arguments the parties make on appeal) whether the trial court committed any reversible error(s) of laws.


Question:
To Which Courts Are Appeals Taken?

Answer: 
There are three levels of appellate courts in New York. A division of the Supreme Court called the Appellate Term hears appeals from orders or judgment made in the Housing Part of the Civil Court of the City of New York. The Appellate Term is broken down into different jurisdictional districts. Orders or judgments issued by the Supreme Court are appealed to a division of that court called the Appellate Division. This court is broken into four departments throughout the State. The Appellate Division is the second highest court in the State. The highest court is the Court of Appeals which generally takes only cases that it believes will have statewide importance.


Question:
What Documents are Used and Considered In The Appeal?

Answer: 
The appeal consists of the Record on Appeal and the Appellate Briefs. The Record on Appeal is a compendium of all the papers, trial minutes (if applicable) and exhibits reviewed by the lower court in rendering its opinion. The Record on Appeal is provided to the appellate court to enable it to review the basis upon which the lower court rendered its decision. Both the appealing party (the appellant) and the defending party (the respondent) prepare briefs which contain renditions of the facts and legal arguments in favor of or against the ruling made by the lower court.


Question:
Can An Appeal Be Argued?

Answer: 
In addition to submitting appellate briefs, parties can have oral argument before the Appellate Court. At the Appellate Term, there are three judges who ask questions of the parties' attorneys to test the merits of their arguments. At the Appellate Division five judges do the questioning, and at the Court of Appeals, seven jurists handle the questioning.


Question:
How Can The Aggrieved Party Maintain The Status Quo Pending Appeal?

Answer: 
Appellate stay practice is underappreciated and often critical to the disposition of a case. When the lower court renders a judgment or order that has immediate consequences to the unsuccessful party, i.e. a money judgment against it, a possessory judgment or a direction that some act take place within a time certain, the unsuccessful party can seek to obtain a stay pending the appeal. A stay halts the effect of the order and preserves the status quo existing prior to the rendering of the order or judgment. In some instances, a stay may be obtained automatically. For example, with a money judgment, a stay may be obtained if a bond for the judgment amount is posted. This provides security for successful party during the appeal process so that the judgment amount is available to the winner, if the appeal proves unsuccessful. Stays of eviction are otherwise granted conditional on payment of use and occupancy on a ongoing basis. In other instances, stays are granted in the discretion of the court and usually upon a showing of immediate harm and a likelihood of success on appeal. The reviewing court may grant the stay but usually will impose conditions for its grant.


Question:
How Can I Take My Case To The Next Appellate Level?

Answer: 
The party aggrieved by a lower court judgment or order has an automatic right to appeal. Civil Court cases (including the Housing Part) can be appealed to the Appellate Term. Supreme Court cases can be appealed to the Appellate Division. Those courts will affirm, modify, or reverse the orders or judgments appealed from. However, if a party feels aggrieved by the initial appellate ruling, there is no automatic right to appeal to the next appellate level (i.e. Appellate Term to Appellate Division; Appellate Division to the Court of Appeals). Rather, a motion for permission must be made. For appeals from the Appellate Term, permission must first be sought from that Court, and if denied, a motion can then be made directly to the Appellate Division. The proponent must demonstrate why further review is warranted which, after two reviews of the case by the trial court and the lower appellate court, is not easy to demonstrate. There are far more technical rules for motions for leave to appeal Appellate Division determinations to the Court of Appeals.