Appeals in the Court System

The first step when determining whether to bring an appeal is whether there is an order that may be appealed. Orders that may be appealed as of right to the Appellate Division in New Jersey include final judgments from a Superior Court or Tax Court, summary contempt proceedings other than those issuing from a Municipal Court, and most final decisions of state administrative agencies after all administrative remedies have been exhausted. Appeals also may result from the promulgation of an agency rule, as well as whenever the law expressly provides for an appeal as of right.

An appeal as of right may be filed in the New Jersey Supreme Court only if the Appellate Division ruled on a substantial constitutional question, the Appellate Division had a dissent, the death penalty was imposed at the trial court level, or the law expressly provides for an appeal as of right. Other appeals from final judgments are by petition for certification to the Appellate Division. Final judgments are those that resolve all the issues for all the parties. Most other orders, such as orders granting partial summary judgment or orders granting a new trial, are considered interlocutory.

In addition to appeals as of right, we handle prerogative writs, which are orders or process rather than writs of right. Prerogative writs include writs of mandamus, prohibition, and procedendo. These are considered extraordinary remedies.

The basis for an appeal is that the lower court made an error. Rarely will an appellate court examine allegations of error that were not raised at the trial level, unless matters of substantial public interest are at issue.

Errors may be "plain" or "harmful." When an error occurred in trial court, but it was not brought to the trial judge's attention, it is considered a plain error. When an error was brought to the judge's attention, it is considered a harmful error. In most cases, an appellate court will only reverse on the basis of either a plain or harmful error when the error could have clearly produced an unjust outcome. This means that the possibility of an unjust outcome must be enough to raise a reasonable doubt about whether the error at issue caused the jury to reach a particular conclusion.

Appeals in the Administrative Process

Generally, agencies and governmental bodies have substantial discretion in many areas, and a court will often review these decisions under an abuse of discretion standard, which means that they will only be reversed if the appellant can show an abuse of discretion. However, agencies and others are expected to make complete findings of fact that are clear enough to allow an appellate court to review them.

If an agency has failed to make clear and complete findings, the matter may be remanded for further fact finding. If an appellant alleges an error in the fact finding of a judge or an agency, the court will only look at whether the finding could have reasonably been reached on sufficient credible evidence. The appellate court gives a fact finder due regard for the purpose of judging witness credibility. Generally, an appellate court does not disturb an agency's ultimate determination unless the appellant can show that the determination was unreasonable, capricious, or arbitrary or that it violated the legislative policies implied or expressed in the act that governs the agency.

The law offices of Carlos Diaz-Cobo is experienced and committed to successfully defending individuals in appeals. Call the Law Offices of Carlos Diaz-Cobo at 732-249-1125.