How long does a federal appeal take?

In most cases, a federal appeal will take over a year before the final judgement is entered. The federal court system is a complex system governed by the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. In these rules are specific deadlines for everything from the initial filing of the appeal to how long the judges have to enter their decision. If you have ever been involved in litigation, you were most likely warned by the lawyers that litigation is long, emotional, and messy. When a federal appeal is warranted, the case may take even longer.

The timetable for a federal appeal begins when the initial judgement is entered by the trial court. From that date, the losing (or aggrieved) party has 30 days to file their appeal. If this set time limit is missed by even one day, the appeal may not be sought. In addition to the time limit, the federal appeals court also issues a page limit. According to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, appeals are limited to 20 pages.

Once the appeal is filed, it is read by a judge’s clerk--these are specially trained law students and lawyers who agree to serve a specific term with the court reviewing applications and drafting briefs for judges. During the time the appeal is being reviewed by the clerk, the opposing party must file a response to the appeal. This response is limited to 35 pages and must be filed within 30 days of being served the appeal.

After the clerk approves the appeal, a hearing is placed on the court’s calendar. Unlike trial court, an appeal hearing is conducted solely by the attorneys and is very short. In fact, most appeal hearings only last 30 to 60 minutes and each side is granted only a few opportunities to present their arguments. The hearing is meant to provide the judge with a chance to question the attorneys and verify the record, not argue the facts of a case. In an appeals case, the court's decision is typically one of two things: to keep the trial court’s verdict--in which case damages are ordered to be paid--or, to overrule the trial court’s decision and either dictate a new judgement or order a new trial.

If you have any further questions regarding federal appeals, get in touch with a litigation attorney.