The trial court has entered judgment in your case. Now what? This series of articles will examine some common questions on appeals to Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court, also known as the Law Court, in civil cases.
How Long Will the Appeal Process Take?
This is one of the most freqåuently asked questions about appeals, and also one of the most difficult to answer. Although it is impossible to predict with any accuracy how long a particular appeal will take, in general, the process will likely take at least nine months. It could take up to a year or more.
Once the Law Court receives the record on appeal (typically one to two months after the filing of the notice of appeal), the Court will issue a “Briefing Schedule” that indicates when the parties’ written arguments are due to be filed. In most appeals, this briefing process takes eighteen weeks (a little more than four months). Some appeals—such as matters involving parental rights or guardianship—are subject to an expedited, 10-week briefing schedule.
At this point, the timing of the appeal becomes more fluid and is controlled primarily by the Court’s schedule. Once the briefing is complete, the Court will review the parties’ written argument and schedule the case for oral argument or on-briefs consideration (see Part I of this series). This may not be for several months after briefing is complete. Even after the Court meets to hear oral argument in the case or consider the matter on briefs, it may take anywhere from a few weeks to several months for the Court to issue its decision.
What if the Law Court Rules Against me? Do I Have a Right to a Further Appeal?
For the most part, no. The Law Court has the final say on matters of Maine law. This means that, in most cases, there is no right to further appeal after the Law Court decides your case.
If your case involves a question of federal law, such as the meaning of a federal statute or the US Constitution, you can ask the US Supreme Court to hear your case. However, the Supreme Court accepts very few of the cases appealed to it. According to the Court’s website, of the approximately 7,000 – 8,000 cases appealed to the Supreme Court each year, the Court accepts less than two hundred.
Future articles in this series will address other common questions about Law Court appeals, including the legal standards the Law Court will use in deciding the appeal. The articles in this series are intended to provide general information and are not a substitute for legal advice. For advice regarding your specific circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact Rudman Winchell.