Whether you privately retain an appellate attorney or are appointed one by the court, one of the first things your appellate attorney will request is the entire case file. Many people are surprised to find that it can cost hundreds of dollars to obtain all documents in a case file. This often prompts individuals to wonder, what does an appellate attorney really need? In short, the answer is usually everything.
Appellate attorneys review cases to determine whether there are grounds for appeal – such as errors made by an attorney, the judge, or the jury – from which to request post-conviction relief. In order to find every potential issue, the attorney must review the entire record. This includes:
- The full court record, including all pleadings, minutes, and orders,
- The full trial attorney file, including discovery, notes, correspondence, and documentation related to past convictions (if any), and
- Transcripts of every hearing that was recorded, such as pretrial, plea, sentencing, and trial hearings.
Each of these items carry their own significance. For example, pleadings contained in the court file reveal what issues existed at the trial level, and how they were resolved. Additionally, if there was a trial, the trial transcripts reveal important details such as what objections were made and how they were handled.
These materials are vital to an appeal because appeals are based completely on the record. Every fact within an appeal must have a corresponding citation to a document in the record. Except in limited circumstances, appellate courts will not consider new witnesses or new evidence.
Additionally, appellate attorneys often discuss the case with the trial level attorney, as well. These conversations are important because the trial level attorney will likely already have ideas as to what issues there may be for appeal.
Perhaps most importantly, appellate attorneys rely on conversations with you, the client. Conversations with the client inform the attorney of what the goal of appellate representation should be, and provide important insight and details on the case.
To speak with a knowledgeable attorney about your appeal, contact the Alderman Law Firm today for your free consultation by calling 720-588-3529 (CO) or 608-620-3529 (WI).
In the majority of criminal cases, a successful appeal or post-conviction motion is not the end of a criminal case. In fact, most post-conviction motions and appeals request specific relief that prolongs the case further, such as a new trial, a new sentencing hearing, or the withdrawal of a plea and the opportunity to go to trial. Following is a discussion of some potential outcomes of a successful post-conviction motion or appeal.
If the reviewing court orders a new trial, the defendant is put in the same position he was in prior to the start of the original trial. The State may attempt to negotiate a plea bargain to avoid a second trial, however it is not required to do so. When requesting a new trial, it is important for the defendant to consider that vacated charges will be reinstated. Further, there is a possibility that he will receive the same convictions – or more – and/or a harsher sentence (assuming he did not receive a maximum sentence on all charged counts in the initial trial).
If the reviewing court affirms a conviction but finds issue with the sentence, it may vacate the sentence and order re-sentencing. This can happen in a variety of situations, such as where the reviewing court determines that a sentence is unreasonable, the sentencing court considered incorrect information, or where the sentence falls outside of statutory sentencing guidelines. An order for re-sentencing puts the defendant back in the position he was in immediately following the criminal conviction, so the defendant can receive any sentence authorized by law.
Vacating the Plea
Where a defendant is successful in arguing that he should be permitted to withdraw his plea, the reviewing court can order that the plea be vacated. This puts the defendant in the same position he was in prior to accepting the plea. As with an order for a new trial, the State may attempt to negotiate a plea bargain, but is not required to do so. If a new plea bargain is not reached, the case will proceed to trial. As with a new trial or re-sentencing, the defendant can receive any sentence which was authorized by law at the point before the plea was entered.
While these are common remedies after a successful post-conviction motion or appeal, they are not the only remedies available. To speak with a knowledgeable attorney about your post-conviction options, contact the Alderman Law Firm today for your free consultation by calling 720-588-3529 (CO) or 608-620-3529 (WI).
A defendant who wishes to appeal a criminal conviction must inform the court of his intention by filing a notice of appeal. The notice of appeal sets into motion deadlines for various other events, leading up to the deadline to file the appellate brief. While this deadline may be extended as necessary (for more information on extending the deadline to file the appellant’s brief, read our post, How Can I Get an Extension of Time to Appeal?), in some cases defendants or their attorneys allow it to lapse.
The good news is there are options through which a defendant can attempt to seek appellate relief after the time for filing an appellate brief has expired. This post discusses three of these options.
Motion to Extend Time to File Post-Conviction Motion or Appeal
Both Wisconsin and Colorado allow defendants to seek a motion to extend the deadline to file an appeal, even after this deadline has expired. In these states, defendants must submit a motion under either Wis. Stat. § 809.82(2)(a) or C.A.R. 26(b), respectively, and the motion must state good cause for the requested extension. The threshold for good cause is higher where the motion is filed after the relevant deadline has expired. The result of a successful motion for extension is the reinstatement of a defendant’s direct appellate rights.
State Collateral Attack
Through a state collateral attack, a defendant can challenge a conviction after the time for a direct appeal has expired. In Wisconsin, collateral attacks are governed under Wis. Stat. §974.06, which provides that a defendant may pursue a collateral attack where he is in “custody” as defined by the statute, and argues that: (1) the sentence violates of the state or federal constitution, (2) the court lacked jurisdiction to impose the sentence, or (3) the sentence exceeds the maximum legal sentence.
In Colorado, collateral attacks are governed under C.R.S. §16-5-402. This statute imposes important deadlines on the filing of a collateral attack, depending on the type of conviction the defendant is attacking:
- Class 1 felonies: No limit
- All other felonies: Three years from the date of conviction
- Misdemeanor offenses: Eighteen months from the date of conviction
- Petty offenses: Six months from the date of conviction
As with Wisconsin collateral attacks, a Colorado defendant must allege that his conviction is in violation of the state or federal constitution.
Motion for Federal Habeas Corpus
A third option for post-conviction relief following the expiration of a defendant’s direct appeal rights is filing a motion for federal habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) requires that a federal habeas corpus petition allege that the defendant is in custody in violation of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. Additionally, a defendant may not file a petition for federal habeas relief unless he has either previously exhausted all state remedies available to him, or shows that the state corrective process is either ineffective or non-existent. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b).
In most cases, it is best to attempt to reinstate your direct appeal rights before pursuing an alternative option. To speak with a knowledgeable attorney about your post-conviction options, contact the Alderman Law Firm today for your free consultation by calling 720-588-3529 (CO) or 608-620-3529 (WI).
This post considers the process of filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in state court. For an overview of federal habeas corpus, review our recent post, “Petitioning for Federal Relief Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.”
In addition to being able to file a petition for a writ of federal habeas corpus relief, state prisoners also have the option to file a petition for a writ of state habeas corpus relief. The procedures and process of seeking state habeas corpus are governed by state statues, and vary by state.
There are several requirements that must be met in order to file a petition for state habeas corpus relief:
- The petitioner must be incarcerated,
- The petitioner must have no other state remedy available to him (either through exhaustion or expiration), and
- The petitioner must allege that he is entitled to immediate release.
A petition for a writ of habeas corpus asks the reviewing court to answer one question – is an incarceration legal. A petition for a writ of habeas corpus is not an opportunity for a court to reconsider the guilt or innocence of a prisoner. Rather, a reviewing court will evaluate the procedures used to convict and sentence a prisoner.
Prisoners do not have a constitutional right to the assistance of counsel for state habeas corpus proceedings. However, certain states including Colorado provide prisoners with the right to the assistance of counsel at certain habeas corpus hearings. In Wisconsin, petitioners can file a “Motion for Appointment of Counsel” to request appointed counsel for a habeas corpus proceeding, however there is no guarantee of appointment.
To speak with a knowledgeable attorney about state habeas corpus relief, contact the Alderman Law Firm today for your free consultation by calling 720-588-3529 (CO) or 608-620-3529 (WI).
Everyone makes mistakes, even judges. If a trial court makes an error related to fact so substantial and critical that the outcome of the case would have been different, a party may seek a writ of error coram nobis. The kind of error which might result in such a writ is if the court made a mistake as to a victim’s age and imposed a conviction and judgment dependent upon that mistake (say, for example, if the court thought the victim was a minor and she was not).
A writ of error coram nobis is an extraordinary remedy of very limited scope. Jessen v. State, 95 Wis.2d 207, 213, 290 N.W.2d 685 (1980). It is addressed to the trial court, and provides the trial court the opportunity to correct its own record. In Wisconsin, a party seeking a writ of error coram nobis must establish three factors:
(1) that no other remedy is available,
(2) that the factual error he wishes to correct is crucial to the ultimate judgment, and
(3) the factual finding to which the alleged factual error is directed must not have been previously visited or passed on by the trial court.
See State v. Heimermann, 205 Wis. 2d 376, 384, 556 N.W.2d 756 (Ct. App. 1996). The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has interpreted the first factor to mean that people in custody cannot seek a writ of error coram nobis because, if they are, Wis. Stat. § 974.06 provides them a remedy. Id. Additionally, the requirement that the error has not previously been visited precludes most errors because attorneys are quick to bring important errors to the court’s attention through various avenues such as objections and post-conviction motions.
In Colorado, the writ of error coram nobis is perhaps even more rare. The Colorado Supreme Court once described this writ as “ancient . . . almost obsolete.” Hackett v. People, 406 P.2d 331, 158 Colo. 304 (Colo., 1965). The Hackett court explained that litigants should instead seek relief through a motion to set aside judgment.
Due to the limited scope of a writ of error coram nobis, this remedy is extremely rare. In most cases, an alternative post-conviction remedy will better serve a persons needs. To speak with a knowledgeable attorney about your post-conviction options, contact the Alderman Law Firm today for your free consultation by calling 720-588-3529 (CO) or 608-620-3529 (WI).
Many incarcerated people share the same goal: to have their sentence reduced. While filing an appeal can eventually have this result, Wis. Stat.§ 973.19(1)(a) provides a fast track for incarcerated persons to request a sentence modification before engaging in more timely litigation.
Wis. Stat.§ 973.19(1)(a) provides that, after being sentenced, a person may move the court to modify his sentence where two factors are met:
(1) he has not yet ordered case transcripts, and
(2) he files his request within 90 days after the sentence or order is entered.
See Wis. Stat. § 973.19(1)(a). The benefit of filing a motion for sentence reduction under this statute is that, because the procedure does not constitute a “full blown appeal,” the person will likely obtain a faster decision from the trial court. However, it is important to consider that, by proceeding under Wis. Stat.§ 973.19(1)(a), a forfeits his opportunity to take a “full blown appeal” wherein he can challenge the issues as well as request a sentence modification.
Because it requires the forfeiture of such a substantial right, a sentence reduction under Wis. Stat. § 973.19(1)(a) is only appropriate where the sole claim for postconviction relief relates to the severity of the sentence. In all other instances, an appeal will likely be more appropriate.
To speak with a knowledgeable attorney about the possibility of a sentence modification, contact the Alderman Law Firm today for your free consultation by calling 720-588-3529 (CO) or 608-620-3529 (WI).
Where a prisoner believes that his incarceration violates federal law, he may petition for a writ of federal habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Federal habeas petitions are often filed as a lest resort after a prisoner has exhausted all other potential remedies.
In order to be considered, a federal habeas petition must allege very specific grounds. According to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a), the petition must allege that the prisoner is in custody in violation of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. Additionally, a prisoner may not file a petition for federal habeas relief unless he has either previously exhausted all state remedies available to him, or shows either that the state corrective process is ineffective or non-existent. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b).
Because such a petition initiates a federal proceeding, state prisoners must allege a violation of the US Constitution. Examples of common constitutional violations include:
- Violation of a defendant’s Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to counsel due to ineffective assistance of counsel;
- Violation of a defendant’s Fourteenth Amendment due process rights due to an improperly obtained confession; and
- Violation of a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial by a fair and impartial jury due to a biased juror, unconstitutional jury instructions, or insufficient evidence to sustain the jury’s verdict.
Alternatively, federal prisoners may petition for federal habeas relief based on violations of the Constitution, or various other federal laws. A successful federal habeas petition may result in a new trial, new sentencing hearing, or even the prisoner’s immediate release.
To speak with a knowledgeable attorney about the possibility of federal habeas relief, contact the Alderman Law Firm today for your free consultation at (855) 973-4169.
This article was authored by our managing attorney Kimberly Alderman-Penix and recently published in the Bi-Weekly Newsletter of the State Bar of Wisconsin. To read the full article including endnotes, click here.
The majority of requests for review to the Wisconsin Supreme Court take the form of a petition for review, filed shortly after the final disposition of a case in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. However, there are three additional, less used vehicles through which the supreme court may exercise jurisdiction over a case: 1) petition for bypass, 2) certification by the court of appeals, and 3) original jurisdiction. This article provides a primer on the four paths cases may take to get to the supreme court, each of which is available in limited situations.
Petitions for Review
The most common way for a case to get before the supreme court is through a petition for review following a loss in the court of appeals. Petitions for review ask the supreme court to exercise its discretionary review on a particular case.
Importantly, the supreme court will not take a case simply because the matter was incorrectly decided or justice was not done in the lower courts. Rather, the supreme court will consider whether:
“(a) A real and significant question of federal or state constitutional law is presented.
(b) The petition for review demonstrates a need for the supreme court to consider establishing, implementing or changing a policy within its authority.
(c) A decision by the supreme court will help develop, clarify or harmonize the law, and
a. The case calls for the application of a new doctrine rather than merely the application of well-settled principles to the factual situation; or
b. The question presented is a novel one, the resolution of which will have statewide impact; or
c. The question presented is not factual in nature but rather is a question of law of the type that is likely to recur unless resolved by the supreme court.
(d) The court of appeals’ decision is in conflict with controlling opinions of the United States Supreme Court or the supreme court or other court of appeals’ decisions.
(e) The court of appeals’ decision is in accord with opinions of the supreme court or the court of appeals but due to the passage of time or changing circumstances, such opinions are ripe for reexamination.”
A petition for review must be filed within 30 days of the adverse decision in the court of appeals. This deadline cannot be extended. If the opposing party wishes to respond to the petition for review, it has 14 days (plus three days for mailing) from the date that the petition was filed to do so. The time it takes for the supreme court to issue a decision granting or denying review will vary depending on the supreme court’s schedule.
Petition for Bypass
In limited circumstances, a party may petition the supreme court for direct review of a matter already briefed in, but not yet decided by, the court of appeals. A matter is appropriate for bypass when it meets one or more of the criteria for review outlined in Wis. Stat. section 809.62 , as reproduced above. Additionally, the supreme court must determine that the issue is one it would have selected for review regardless of the outcome in the court of appeals. Finally, petitions for bypass may be granted when the supreme court determines that there is a need to hasten the appellate process.
A petition for bypass must contain a statement of reasons for bypassing the court of appeals. It must be filed no later than 14 days following the filing of the respondent’s brief. The opposing party may file a response to the petition to bypass within 14 days after the service of the petition.
The filing of the petition for bypass stays proceedings in the court of appeals, preventing that court from taking under submission the appeal. If the petition is denied, the original appeal to the court of appeals will continue as though the petition to bypass had never been filed.
Certification by the Court of Appeals
If the court of appeals believes that a particular case presents a question of law that belongs before the supreme court, it may certify an appeal to the supreme court. Certification means the court of appeals, instead of issuing its own ruling, asks the supreme court to take the case directly because the case presents a question of law that belongs before the highest state court.
A recent example of certification by the court of appeals occurred in Madison Teachers Inc. v. Scott Walker (appeal no. 2012-AP-2067). In this case, the court of appeals certified an appeal to the supreme court “because of its sweeping statewide effect on public employers, public employees, and taxpayers and because of the need to clarify and develop law relating to associational rights and the home-rule authority of municipalities.”
A certification by the court of appeals will be considered using the same criteria as a petition for review or bypass. Importantly, bypass will be attractive to the supreme court when there is a demonstrated need to quicken the appellate process, existing precedent on the issue is scant or conflicting, or the justices determine they will want to consider the issue, regardless of how the court of appeals ultimately rules. For the supreme court to consider an issue on certification, at least four justices must agree to hear it.
Finally, a party may move to commence an original action in front of the supreme court under original jurisdiction. “The concept of original jurisdiction allows cases involving matters of great public importance to be commenced in the supreme court in the first instance.”
Importantly, the supreme court is not a fact-finding body. Therefore, it will not take cases that involve disputes of fact. Rather, all parties to the action must agree on the facts that the court will consider.
A petition for the supreme court to take jurisdiction of an original action must include:
“(a) A statement of the issues presented by the controversy.
(b) A statement of the facts necessary to an understanding of the issues.
(c) A statement of the relief sought.
(d) A statement of the reasons why the court should take jurisdiction.”
A recent example of an action for original jurisdiction in the supreme court occurred in State ex rel. Ismael R. Ozanne v. Fitzgerald. In this case, the supreme court exercised original jurisdiction in order to determine whether the Wisconsin Legislature acted unconstitutionally when it enacted 2011 Wisconsin Act 10. The court granted the petition for original jurisdiction after determining that a lower court “usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin Constitution grants exclusively to the legislature.”
To exercise original jurisdiction, at least four justices must agree to hear the case. In contrast to petitions for bypass and certifications, the criteria for granting original jurisdiction are not statutory, and are less clearly defined.
If the supreme court does not deny the petition outright, it may order the respondent to file a responsive brief. The response will be due within 14 days of service of the order (rather than service of the petition). Additionally, the court may require an oral argument on the issue of taking original jurisdiction. Should the court decide to take original jurisdiction, it will establish a briefing schedule, and may or may not request oral argument on the issue to be decided.
Considerations for Appellate Attorneys
The Wisconsin Supreme Court hears very few cases regardless of which of these jurisdictional paths is pursued. The cases it does hear tend to be those that trigger its institutional responsibilities, rather than those in which justice may not have been done in a lower court. With a working knowledge of the four ways by which a case can come before this state’s highest court, an appellate attorney can quickly identify cases appropriate for high court review and more effectively advise clients on appellate options.
There are many reasons why a person may miss a deadline. Especially when proceeding ‘pro se’ (without an attorney), there are many deadlines and rules that can be difficult to keep track of. It is therefore important to know which deadlines can be extended, and which cannot. In the context of an appeal, one very important deadline is the deadline to file the pleading that informs the courts that you will be appealing an order in the trial level court. In most jurisdictions, this document is referred to as the Notice of Appeal.
Each state has its own statute governing the motion to extend the deadline for filing a notice of appeal. In Wisconsin, for instance, it is Wis. Stat. § 809.82(2)(a). This statute provides that the court may extend this deadline “upon good cause shown.” Importantly, the good cause must be related to the delay in filing the Notice of Appeal, rather than the merits of the case itself. See State v. Evans, 2004 WI 84, 273 Wis.2d 192, 682 N.W.2d 784 (Wis., 2004). There is no deadline for filing a motion under this statue, however the earlier it is filed, the better chance it will be granted.
In Colorado, C.A.R. 4(a) governs when a Notice of Appeal may be filed after the time to do so has expired. This statute provides that such a motion will only be granted upon a showing of “excusable neglect.” Excusable neglect exists where a litigant can show that a reasonably prudent person under the same circumstances would have missed the same deadline. If a party is successful in showing excusable neglect, the time for filing a notice of appeal will be extended by no more than 35 days.
Although it is possible to ask the court to extend the deadline to file a Notice of Appeal after the deadline has passed, this is the exception, not the rule. The court has complete discretion to grant or deny such a motion, and these decisions are rarely overturned on appeal. To avoid these risks, it is best to file your Notice of Appeal on time.
To speak with a knowledgeable attorney about your appeal, contact the Alderman law Firm today for your free consultation by calling 720-588-3529 (CO) or 608-620-3529 (WI).
Restraining (or civil protection) orders are temporary orders issued by judges in order to protect a particular person or entity. If you believe that a person has unnecessarily obtained a restraining order against you, you may be able to appeal (or otherwise fight) the order. Importantly, no matter how frivolous you believe a restraining order may be, make absolutely certain you abide by all its terms. Any violation, however slight, may result in arrest, fines, or even jail time.
Because the chances of success on appeal are always statistically low, it may be advisable to exhaust any alternative options before pursuing an appeal. One such option is a motion for reconsideration. A motion for reconsideration asks the trial court to review and amend its findings and conclusions. This is a good option where there is newly discovered evidence, or where the trial court misapplied existing law.
If a motion for reconsideration is inappropriate or unsuccessful, it may be time to file an appeal. In Wisconsin, for example, a party can file an ‘appeal by right’ asking the Wisconsin Court of Appeals to review the final decision granting the restraining order. Wis. Stat. § 808.03. Importantly, most issues must be preserved before they can be appealed. This means that, at the hearings in the trial court, a party or attorney must raise any objections to potential errors. If you plan to file an appeal of a restraining order, be sure to keep track of applicable deadlines. For example, in Colorado, the appealing party must file his notice of appeal within 49 days of the entry of the restraining order. C.A.R. 4(a).
To speak with a knowledgeable attorney about appealing a restraining order, contact the Alderman law Firm today for your free consultation by calling 720-588-3529 (CO) or 608-620-3529 (WI).