Appellate Procedure

La Dona È Mobile

What if a trial judge announces an order on the record, then goes home and has a change of heart? Sure, he already told the lawyers and the litigants that Mother can have the custody of the kids, but he did not actually put it in writing. Can the judge back out? If  he said that custody goes to Mother, can he wake up the next day and write an order giving custody to Father? The Court of Appeals today spoke plainly on the subject. Somewhat surprisingly, the answer is “yes.”  The oral pronouncement means nothing at all. The written order can…

Can’t Appeal Your Own Consent.

It is a truth acknowledged among all lawyers: the more obvious the point, the harder it is to find a good cite. For a long time, I could not find authority for the obvious proposition: you can’t appeal a consent order. You might ask: “Why would you want a case for thaaaat?! Who’d be simple enough to appeal a consent order?” Oddly, people appeal consent orders with decent regularity. I do not know why that is. Maybe the clients find themselves consenting in court to all sorts of things they later come to regret. Courts are disorienting that way. Whatever the reason, it happens. A lot….

8,750 Words Is All It Takes, After All?

I wrote in this earlier post that O’Neal v. O’Neal, 738 S.E.2d 190 (2013) may have created a new hurdle for the appellants in North Carolina. The North Carolina Court of Appeals in O’Neal criticized the Appellant’s attempt to challenge the trial court’s findings of fact. Ultimately, the Court of Appeals even refused to review that challenge to the findings of fact. That was unexpected because the Appellant in O’Neal had taken all the ordinary steps to accomplish her challenge. In her Issues on Appeal, she listed the offending findings by number; in her Brief-in-Chief, she listed the findings by number…

Uh-oh. I Think I Need a Bigger Box.

A year ago, the North Carolina Court of Appeals handed down an opinion in O’Neal v. O’Neal, a small domestic case. The O’Neal opinion keeps me awake at night. When I need to pull an all-nighter, I sometimes re-read a couple of pages, and it shakes me right up. I thought the appellate bar would say something about O’Neal, but it went quiet. Pamela O’Neal moved to recuse the trial judge—historically speaking, an unremarkable occurrence in the North Carolina domestic courts. Pamela first perceived bias at a settlement conference when her trial judge commanded that Pamela make an offer…

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

I signed up to teach a CLE about the basics of appellate practice. When I say “the basics,” I am not being modest. I will speak to the practitioners who never ever want to sign up for the username on the Court of Appeals’ website. Ever. The sort of warriors who win their trials the old-fashioned way—before the jury. We will talk about the meaning of “interlocutory,” and where one goes to find the record, and why some of the published opinions are called “unpublished,” and why a “remand” is rarely a good thing. And of I get really…

Not Interlocutory Anymore: The New Law Allows Each Claim In Divorce To Be Appealed Separately

  Let’s say your client is bitterly unhappy with the result of her equitable distribution hearing. You re-read the trial transcript and confirm to yourself what you knew all along: you have a good appeal. You advise your client accordingly and brace for the inevitable: she wants to appeal now. Right away. Yesterday, if possible. But her alimony claim is still pending. Now what? In the olden days, you were stuck. You could have yourself an immediate appeal of equitable distribution order. Or you could have yourself an alimony trial. But you could not have both, because any unresolved…

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