Is a judgment you received from a Georgia court directly appealable to the Court of Appeals of Georgia? Broadly, there are two classes of directly appealable judgments in Georgia. First are those that are expressly by statute. Second are those for which you’ve obtained a certificate to appeal. Of course, things get a good bit more complicated once you add in applications for discretionary appeal. The best practice is to call an appellate attorney as soon as you receive an unfavorable opinion to discuss your options. But in the meantime, here are some guidelines to get your research started.
Is your case directly appealable by statute?
The following types of cases are directly appealable:
- All final judgments, where the case is no longer pending in the court below, subject to important exceptions noted below;
- All judgments involving applications for discharge in bail trover and contempt cases;
- All judgments or orders directing that an accounting be had;
- All judgments or orders granting or refusing applications for receivers or for interlocutory or final injunctions;
- All judgments or orders granting or refusing applications for attachment against fraudulent debtors;
- Any ruling on a motion which would be dispositive if granted with respect to a defense that the action is barred by preemption;
- All judgments or orders granting or refusing to grant mandamus or any other extraordinary remedy, except with respect to temporary restraining orders;
- All judgments or orders refusing applications for dissolution of corporations created by the superior courts;
- All judgments or orders sustaining motions to dismiss a caveat to the probate of a will;
- All judgments or orders deviating from a mandatory minimum sentence; and
- All judgments or orders in child custody cases including, but not limited to, awarding or refusing to change child custody or holding or declining to hold persons in contempt of such child custody judgment or orders.
Does your case require an application for appeal?
As noted in #1 above, a specific set of final judgments require an application for appeal, governed by O.C.G.A. § 5-6-35. You should follow the steps set out in O.C.G.A. 5-6-35(b) even if these cases are final judgments:
- Appeals from decisions of the superior courts reviewing decisions of the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, the State Board of Education, auditors, state and local administrative agencies (but not the Public Service Commission, probate courts, or cases involving ad valorem taxes and condemnations;
- Appeals from judgments or orders in divorce, alimony, and other domestic relations cases;
- Appeals from cases involving distress or dispossessory warrants in which the only issue to be resolved is a small amount of rent (less than $2,500);
- Appeals from cases involving garnishment or attachment, subject to some exceptions contained in O.C.G.A. § 5-6-34;
- Appeals from orders revoking probation;
- Appeals from decisions of superior courts reviewing decisions of the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board;
- Appeals from decisions of superior courts granting or denying petitions for release;
- Appeals in actions with $10,000 or less in damages;
- Appeals from the denial of an extraordinary motion for new trial;
- Appeals denying motions to set aside a judgment under O.C.G.A. § 9-11-60;
- Appeals regarding requests for temporary restraining orders;
- Appeals from O.C.G.A. § 9-15-14 fee awards;
- Appeals from decisions of the state courts reviewing decisions of the magistrate courts, if the subject matter is not otherwise subject to a direct right of appeal;
- Appeals from orders terminating parental rights.
Can you obtain a certificate of appealability?
Where a judgment is not directly appealable, you still may be able to get to the Court of Appeals of Georgia by obtaining a certificate of appealability from a Georgia trial court. What can easily confuse a lot of Georgia lawyers is that this process is not identical to the one listed above, for filing an application for direct appeal.
Instead, where the trial judge renders an order, decision, or judgment not otherwise subject to direct appeal and certifies within ten days that the decision is of such importance to the case that immediate review should be had, the Court of Appeal of Georgia (or, in some cases, the Supreme Court of Georgia) may here the case.
The trial court can issue the certification on its own, but usually does so by request. Because of the tight deadline to obtain the certificate, if the trial court does not sua sponte issue a certificate act and you want it to, you should act immediately upon receiving the judgment. If the court allows informal e-mails to the clerk, cc:ing opposing counsel, you may want to begin with that, and follow with more detailed papers.
Will the Court of Appeals of Georgia hear your case if you obtain the certificate?
Importantly, appealing from a Certificate of Appealability is a two-step process. After you obtain the certificate, you still need to request review from the Court of Appeals. You’ll have ten days from the entry of the trial court’s order granting the certificate for immediate review to file your application.
During the application phase, you will bear the burden of proof on showing that one of the following standards is met:
- The issue to be decided appears to be dispositive of the case; or
- The order appears erroneous and will probably cause a substantial error at trial or will adversely affect the rights of the appealing party until entry of final judgment, in which case the appeal will be expedited; or
- The establishment of precedent is desirable.
Notably, although denials of summary judgment are not directly appealable, every single denial of summary judgment meets standard one, which seems to defeat the purpose of such orders not generally being appealable. Kastorf Law will write a separate entry discussing the intricacies of that point later.
Need an appellate lawyer?
Even of you’re perfectly capable of figuring out when and how to appeal on your own, why bother? Hiring appellate counsel makes sense for a lot of reasons, but not least among them is that when you hire an appellate attorney you can stop reading Georgia procedural rules and get back to working on client cases. Call Kastorf Law if you need an appellate lawyer in Georgia. Don’t take our word for it. Read what other attorneys have to say about our appellate litigation services.