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Three Common Mistake in Appeals

The legal system is the default dispute resolution when no other person, group or institution can solve a problem or dispute. The fact a case is brought sometimes demonstrates the very point—good individuals and well-run companies have disputes they cannot move beyond and bring to an impartial judge for decision. This system is the marvel of the world, particularly since there is generally a right to appeal an adverse decision. In this case, the appellant (who generally lost some or all issues) often make the same three mistakes that deflect from the merit of the case.

1. Blame the judge or lawyer. The first is blaming the lawyer(s) or judge. These professionals dedicate their lives and professional careers to ensure the best case or worst litigant and issue is afforded due process of law. This generally means the right to be heard by a neutral and detached fact finder. However, where the case does not go as hoped or expected, it is human and/or business nature to sometimes blame the lawyer or judge.

This is one of the worse ways to get an appeal off to a bad start as legal strategy or a judge’s difference of legal opinion under the law is not the place to cast blame. This erodes the litigants position in asking the same legal system upon which blame is cast to re-decide the issue. Yes, mistakes are made but this is statistically improbable.

2. Too many issues or pet issues. No trial, judge or attorney is 100 percent (100%) all of the time. The system recognizes this and the concept of strategy (by the lawyer) or harmless error (made by a judge). Thus, every little issue or some pet issue, such as establishing an erroneous ruling, is not taken well on appeal. Instead, Indiana’s appellate court’s look at what we should all expect. Did the litigant get a fair day in court? Throwing everything out and hoping something sticks is not the right approach in an appeal.

3. Long or very short briefs. This rule is obvious. A clear error and powerful brief is just that—powerful. On the other hand a very short brief can be a sign that the appeal is just being made on the statistical long shot of a win or because the litigant or lawyer wants to make it. There is nothing wrong with a short brief and/or one issue so long as it is legally prudent. Also, very long briefs are rarely justified and can be a sign of a “long and windy” legal road to “win.” These briefs too are red flags for those that will likely lose, but occasionally make legal sense and this general rule sometimes is worth deviation.

This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who practice throughout the State of Indiana. This is for educational purposes only. This is not meant as specific legal advice nor the solicitation of services. We hope you find this blog helpful in understanding the legal system available to you to address any legal need you may have.


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Dixon & Moseley, P.C., is a law firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. We serve clients in six core practice areas: family lawappellate practicefirearms lawgeneral practicepersonal injury and criminal law.

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