Once a trial is over and the Circuit Court renders a decision, most people think that is the end of the case and, in most instances, they would be correct. However, pursuant to the Illinois Supreme Court Rules, a party has a right to appeal any final judgment of the Circuit Court in civil cases. This means that, once the Circuit Court has rendered a decision in a case, the party can request the Appellate Court to reconsider the issue, provided the party follows the appropriate procedures in filing the appeal.
A party can file an appeal in two instances. The first is where the Circuit Court renders a final judgment on all of the issues and the case is over. The second instance is slightly more complex. In many cases, there will be multiple parties or multiple issues. In such a case, a party can file an appeal where a final judgment is rendered for one or more of the issues, even if all of the issues have not been considered by the Court. When this happens, the Appellate Court will only reconsider the issues that have been decided upon and will not consider the issues that have not been decided. In order to appeal a case where a final judgment is rendered with regards to some of the issues but not all, the party must request that the Circuit Court enter an order stating the particular issue is appealable.
To pursue an appeal, the party must file a Notice of Appeal with the Circuit Court within thirty days of the Court’s final judgment. The party must then request the Circuit Court to prepare their record for the Appellate Court because the Appellate Court will review and consider the record in reconsidering the issue. Finally, within 14 days after the Notice of Appeal is filed, the party must fill out a form called a Docketing Statement and send it to the Appellate Court to be filed. Once these procedures have been met, each party will have to write a brief explaining the Circuit Court’s decision and arguing their position as to why the Circuit Court’s decision is right or wrong. The Appellate Court will consider both parties’ briefs in rendering its decision. Once the Appellate Court reviews the record and the parties’ briefs, it will either (1) affirm the Circuit Court’s decision, or (2) reverse the Circuit Court’s decision and provide instructions to the Circuit Court on how to correct its decision.
There are several regulations, technical rules, and time frames that the parties must follow in filing their appeal and drafting their briefs. As a result, appeals are time consuming, costly endeavors and a majority of cases heard by the Circuit Court are not appealed for this reason. Therefore, it is important to consider your likelihood of success on appeal and weigh all of your options prior to filing an appeal.