Upon receiving an adverse ruling from a district court, many people instinctively want to appeal the decision immediately and assume that doing so will quickly result in reversal. The reality is not so simple. There are many factors that must be considered before deciding whether an appeal is advisable, or even possible, in any given case.

Is the decision appealable?

Not every court order is immediately appealable. Minn. R. Civ. P. 103.03 describes the types of orders that are appealable. Typically, there must be a final judgment, which is one that ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but to execute the judgment. Other appealable orders include those involving injunctions, new trial motions, modification of custody, visitation, spousal maintenance, and child support, and other limited categories of orders. It is essential to check this list and relevant case law to determine whether an order is appealable before filing a notice of appeal.

The State of the Law

One of the biggest considerations in deciding whether an appeal is worthwhile is the state of the law. If well-established binding precedent from the highest court in the jurisdiction has rejected the argument you intend to make, the likelihood of success is exceedingly slim. Successful appeals often involve issues where the law is somewhat unsettled or unclear or in circumstances in which the law is clear but the trial court failed to properly apply it.

The State of the Record

Another consideration in deciding whether to appeal is the state of the record. Appellate courts do not accept new evidence and they generally do not consider new arguments that were not raised below. Therefore, it is important to examine the record and ensure the issue has been properly preserved before deciding whether to appeal.

The Standard of Review

Not all issues are reviewed under the same standard on appeal. For example, questions of law, such as the interpretation of a statute, are reviewed de novo, meaning the appellate court gives no deference to the lower court. Conversely, many issues such as the admissibility of evidence, trial management, sanctions, division of marital property and child custody, are reviewed for abuse of discretion. This means the trial judge is given significant deference and the appellate court will not reverse even if it would have decided the issue differently. An important part of deciding whether to appeal is understanding what standard of review applies and how that affects the likelihood of success on appeal.

Practical Considerations

Finally, one must consider the practical implications of pursuing an appeal. Appeals take a long time to be decided and can involve significant cost. Moreover, depending on the arguments made on appeal, even a favorable appellate decision can leave remaining issues to be litigated on remand, which may or may not ultimately leave the appellant in a better position than before the appeal was taken.
In short, deciding whether to appeal an adverse ruling requires careful consideration of many factors. If you would like to discuss whether to appeal a particular decision, please contact Michelle Kuhl (612.336.9328/mkuhl@lommen.com) or Kay Hunt (612.336.9341/kay@lommen.com).