How to Appeal a Judgment in California

by Teo Spengler
The trial court judge does not have the final say in California.

The trial court judge does not have the final say in California.

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In virtually every case decided by a California trial court, at least one party is unhappy with the outcome. If you lost some or all of the issues presented to the trial court, you can take a second shot at your argument by filing an appeal to a higher court if the judge's legal mistakes impacted the outcome of the case.

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Appeals in California

You have a legal right to appeal a civil judgment in California, but do not expect a new trial with witnesses and a jury. Appellate courts consider only two issues: whether the trial court made a legal error and whether that error affected the outcome. Your presentation on appeal is limited to those two issues, so consider your appeal well and seek legal advice before deciding whether to appeal.

Timing Your Appeal

An appeal in California begins with a notice of appeal, and it must be filed within strict time limits. The form you use and time limits vary depending on the type of case. Generally, a notice of appeal from a limited case involving $25,000 or less must be filed within 30 days from the judgment. In a case with $25,000 or more in dispute, your appeal must be filed within 60 days from the judgment. There are additional deadlines which can apply in some cases, so consider contacting an attorney that can help you calculate the proper deadline.

Filing the Notice of Appeal

Obtain the appropriate form from the court or an online legal services provider. The form only requires that you identify the judgment from which you are appealing and sign the form. You must have an adult mail or deliver the notice to the other party and then complete a proof of service to be filed with the notice of appeal. The court charges a filing fee.

Designating the Record

Since the appellate court only looks at the record from the lower court rather than hearing witnesses and receiving evidence, you need to designate the record you want the court to see. You have 10 days from the day you file your notice of appeal to tell the lower court which documents you want included. Some documents must be included in the record and others are discretionary. Prepare a form entitled Appellant's Notice Designating Documents on Appeal, serve a copy on other parties and file it in the same court issuing the judgment from which you are appealing. Consider seeking legal advice to be sure you get a complete record.