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Background Information about Appeals

What is an appeal?

An appeal is a review by a higher court of a lower court or administrative agency's final judgment or decree to determine if the lower court made a legal mistake. An appeal is not a new trial, and the appellate court will not accept new evidence. The only information the appellate court will review in deciding whether the lower court made a mistake is:

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Who can appeal?

Usually you need to have been a party in the Superior Court case. You may not appeal for a spouse, child (unless you are the child's guardian), or a friend. The "Appellant" is the party who files the appeal and the "Appellee" is the party who defends against the appeal.

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What can you appeal?

If you think the Superior Court judge made a legal mistake in deciding one or more issues in the original case, you may appeal

Often people file appeals when they lose in the Superior Court and think that the judge made a legal mistake in the decision. But, sometimes people win in the Superior Court case but file an appeal because they think the judge made a legal mistake in some part of the decision. For example, the Superior Court may award the winner damages in a case, but the winner thinks the amount was incorrect so files an appeal about that issue.

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When can you appeal?

It depends on the kind of case you are appealing.

Custody cases

In appeals from final judgments for child custody, you have 15 days from the date shown in the clerk's certificate of distribution at the bottom of the final judgment, decree or decision to file a Notice of Appeal. This includes child custody issues in custody, divorce, dissolution and domestic violence protective order cases. It also includes adoption, child-in-need-of-aid (CINA), and guardianship of minor proceedings.

Most civil cases

For most civil cases, you have 30 days from the date shown in the clerk's certificate of distribution at the bottom of the final judgment, decree or decision to file a Notice of Appeal.

Special circumstances

There are other special types of cases that have different deadlines to file an appeal. Please read Appellate Rules 216-220 to see if your case has different deadlines, or talk with an attorney.

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How do you appeal?

There are 10 steps. This website discusses each step in detail. You should read each step carefully.

  1. Appellant reviews the Superior Court record to make sure that there are issues to be decided in an appeal. You need to convince the Supreme Court that the Superior Court judge made a legal mistake. Just because you do not like the Superior Court judge’s decision does not mean that the judge made a mistake. Talk with an attorney to determine if there are issues for appeal. Throughout your appeal, you should review legal resources to do legal research.
  2. To start the appeal, Appellant prepares:
  1. Appellant files these documents in the Appellate Clerk's Office and pays the filing fee and cost bond (or asks for a waiver)
  2. Appellant serves the Appellee or their attorney if they have one.
  3. Parties write their appeal briefs within time set by the case manager.
  4. Parties prepare the excerpt of record that goes with the appeal briefs.
  5. Parties file appeal briefs and excerpts of record at the Appellate Clerk's Office within the deadlines set by the case manager.
  6. Parties serve the other side with the appeal brief and excerpts of record.
  7. Parties prepare for oral argument and argue their case before the Supreme Court (if was requested by one or both parties).
  8. Wait for Supreme Court's decision on the appeal.

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How much does it cost?

To open the appeal, you must pay:

AND

If you can't afford these amounts, you can ask the Supreme Court for a waiver of the filing fee and/or cost bond by filing:

Your case in the Supreme Court does not start until the Court grants the waiver of filing fee and cost bond. You will receive an Opening Notice from the case manager if the Court grants the waiver.

For more information about the costs involved in an appeal, please read the Filing Fee and Costs section.

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Where do you file an appeal?

File all documents for your appeal in the Appellate Court Clerk's Office in Anchorage. They are open from 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Alaska Appellate Courts
303 K Street
Anchorage, AK 99501-2084
phone: (907) 264-0612

If you live outside of Anchorage, send your papers to the above address using First Class U.S. mail.

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How long does it take to get through the appeals process?

It generally takes approximately 2 years from the time you start the appeal until you receive an opinion from the Supreme Court. However, your appeal may take shorter or longer depending on the complexity of the issues and the Court's schedule. The Appeals Process Table Adobe Acrobat PDF logo contains the estimated timelines for each step of the appeal process.

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What do you do if an appeal is filed against you?

If you receive papers saying the opposing party has filed an appeal against you, you need to prepare to respond. There are several times during the appeal that the appellee needs to be active:

This website discusses each of these steps and how the appellee can prepare their side of the case.

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How often do appellants win an appeal?

It is difficult to win an appeal. The Supreme Court reverses only about 12% of civil appeal cases outright. The Supreme Court presumes that the Superior Court judgment is correct, and the appealing party must convince the court otherwise to win the appeal.

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Do you have to follow the Superior Court final judgment or order if there is an appeal?

Yes. You are responsible for following what the Superior Court final judgment or order says even though one of the parties has filed an appeal. The other side can enforce the Superior Court's final judgment or order if you do not follow it. You can ask the Superior Court to stop the opposing party from enforcing the Superior Court judgment during the appeal. To understand more, please read the section about Your Superior Court Case During the Appeal.

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What if you miss a deadline?

Missing deadlines during the appeal can be very serious. For example, if you do not file your brief on time or you do not file an opposition to a motion on time, you may not be able to file that document. At worst, your entire appeal may be dismissed. If you miss a deadline, you need to file a motion asking the Supreme Court for permission to continue and file the document. In an affidavit, you also need to provide a good explanation about why you missed the deadline. You can read more about filing motions.

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Do you have to give the opposing party copies of filed documents?

You must serve the opposing party with a copy of every document you file during the appeal. This includes the papers to start the appeal, briefs, excerpts of record, motions, affidavits and proposed orders and opposition papers. You must state in a certificate of service how and when you gave the opposing party a copy of a document. Most forms have a certificate of service located at the bottom of the last page which you can fill out. You can also file a separate Certificate of Service form with any filing to let the court know how you served the opposing party. If you do not provide proof of service, the court will reject your filing.

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What forms do you need?

For each part of the appeal, there is detailed information available, including forms and instructions.

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Rev. 4 December 2012
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