Civil Appeals

Appellate courts are called “courts of last resort” for a reason – at no other time in the litigation process are decisions so critical, so final. That is why it is imperative to choose an appellate lawyer who can maximize your chances of prevailing. Alderman Law Firm attorneys have both the expertise and experience to assist you in perfecting your argument on appeal.

Due to the nature of appellate representation, distance is often no barrier to effective representation. Located in Madison, the Alderman Law Firm has been able to represent countless individuals on appeal statewide.

If you wish to challenge a criminal conviction, please visit our page on Criminal Appeals.

What Is a Civil Appeal?

Through a civil appeal, a litigant asks the Court of Appeals to reverse a final judgment or decision made by the Circuit Court. Appellate arguments are often based on complex legal interpretations. To locate “appealable issues,” in your case, you must carefully review the written record for procedural errors.

A civil appeal is not an opportunity to re-litigate your case. The appellate judges are there to review for errors made during the process, not to second-guess the circuit court’s decision by looking at the same evidence and making their own determination. The singular exception to this rule is when the Court of Appeals applies a de novo standard of review to a particular issue or case.

Where Do I Start?

The first and most important step is to file a timely notice of appeal. Your notice of appeal is due within 45 days of the circuit court’s final order, unless you did not receive written notification of the order. Wis. Stat. 808.04(1). In the latter case, you will have 90 days from the date of final judgment to file a notice of appeal. Wis. Stat. 808.04(1).

If you are certain that you would like to file an appeal, you should file your notice of appeal immediately. The Wisconsin court system provides the appropriate forms online: Notice of Appeal in PDF, and Notice of Appeal in Word. If you are represented by counsel, you will need to submit a Docketing Statement as well. An original and one copy of the Docketing Statement must accompany the copy of the Notice of Appeal that is sent to the Court of Appeals.

What Happens After I File My Notice of Appeal?

After you file your notice of appeal, the clerk of the Circuit Court will file the “record on appeal” with the clerk of the Court of Appeals. The clerk must do this within either 20 days after any files designated on the statement on transcript are filed, or 20 days after the date of filing a statement of transcript indicating that no transcripts will be necessary. Wis. Stat. 809.15(4).

You have 40 days from the date that the clerk of Circuit Court files the record on appeal to file your appellate brief. Wis. Stat. 809.19(1). The other party, (“respondent”) has 30 days from the date of service of your brief (or 33 if you serve them by mail) to respond with their own brief. Wis. Stat. 809.19(3). You then have fifteen days (or 18 days if you were served by mail) to file your reply. Wis. Stat. 809.19(4).

There are a multitude of forms available on the Court of Appeals forms website to assist you in properly drafting the various components of your brief.

What If The Court Of Appeals Denies My Appeal?

If your appeal is denied, you may ask the Wisconsin Supreme Court to review your case. Wis. Stat. 809.62(1m)(a). Although you have the right to request such review, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is not required to hear your case. Wis. Stat. 809.62(1r). The majority of petitions for review to The Wisconsin Supreme Court are denied.

If you wish to ask the Wisconsin Supreme Court to review your case, you must file a petition for review within 30 days of the Court of Appeals’ decision. Wis. Stat. 808.10(1). This deadline cannot be extended, so time is of the essence.

The Wisconsin court system has published a Guide to Seeking Review in the Wisconsin Supreme Court to assist litigants in learning about this process.

What Can The Alderman Law Firm Do For Me?

According to statics released by the Wisconsin court system, 84 percent of all appeals — both civil and criminal — that made it to the opinion phase of litigation were denied in 2011.

Civil appeals are decided based solely on written documents, which include your brief (“appellant’s brief”), the opposing party’s response to your brief (“respondent’s brief”), your reply to the respondent’s brief (“reply brief”), and the written record. It is therefore vital to have your briefs written by an experienced professional.

The attorneys at the Alderman Law Firm have extensive experience in appellate advocacy, and can provide you with professional assistance every step of the way. From reviewing your case materials for errors to expertly drafting your appellate and reply briefs, the attorneys at the Alderman Law firm have the depth of experience necessary to provide you with the best chance of success on appeal.

If you choose to navigate the appellate process on your own, the State of Wisconsin offers a Guide to Appellate Procedure for the Self-Represented online, free of charge. However, the Guide recommends that litigants procure the assistance of an attorney, and for good reason. As the guide notes, the process of litigating a civil appeal is “complicated, time-consuming, and difficult.” Moreover, pro se litigants do not receive any special treatment or consideration from the Court of Appeals.

Are You An Attorney Interested in Writing Services & Appellate Consulting?

The Alderman Law Firm offers appellate services and litigation consulting to other Wisconsin attorneys and law firms on a per-project basis.

What If I Have More Questions?

The above information is offered as a general overview of the civil appeals process. This information is provided as a courtesy, and is not legal advice. If you are considering undertaking a civil appeal, contact the Alderman Law Firm for your free consultation at (608) 620-3529.