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Glossary of Appeals Terms

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Abuse of discretion A legal standard that the Supreme Court uses to decide whether the Superior Court judge made a mistake in a decision that involved the judge's discretion. For example, a judge uses discretion to decide whether a witness can testify or whether evidence is admitted. Abuse of discretion happens when the Superior Court ruling is arbitrary, unreasonable or absurd because it makes absolutely no sense.
Administrative Agency A unit of government charged with administering particular laws. Some agencies create regulations for specific subject areas. Others provide special services either to the government or to the people. The Child Support Services Division and the Workers Compensation Board are examples of administrative agencies.
Affidavit A written statement that is signed under the penalty of perjury and sworn to before a person who is officially permitted by law to administer an oath, like a notary public.
Affirm When an appellate court says that the lower court's decision was right.
Answer The response filed by a defendant to a complaint in a civil case.
Appeal A review by an appellate court of what happened in a trial court or administrative agency to determine if any mistakes of law happened and if the mistakes are significant enough to reverse or remand the decision.
Appellant The party who appeals from the trial court's decision. This is the party who lost in the trial court and wants the Supreme Court to reverse or modify the judgment of the trial court.
Appellate Having to do with appeals.
Appellate Court The court that considers the appeal of a lower court decision. An appellate court can review the decision of the lower court (called a "trial court" or "Superior Court"). For example, the Alaska Supreme Court reviews the decision of the Superior Court in civil cases.
Appellate Court Clerk's Office This is the place that deals with all paperwork that comes into and out of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. The address is: 303 K Street, 4th floor, Anchorage, AK 99501-2084. The phone number is: 907-264-0612.
Appellate Rules These are the special rules that regulate the practice and procedure in appellate cases. These are also called the Rules of Appellate Procedure. The Rules contain information about deadlines for filing different documents in the different stages of the appeal. They also discuss the format for what the documents should look like.
Appellee The party against whom the appeal is filed and who responds to the appeal. This is the party who won in the lower court case and generally wants the Supreme Court to agree with the lower court's decision.
Appellee's brief The second brief in the series which the Appellee files. It responds to the issues raised in the Appellant's opening brief and sets out the Appellee's argument that the lower court's decision is correct.
Appendix Section of the brief that contains the property division issues in a divorce. It lists the parties' assets and debts as shown in the Superior Court record and includes the Superior Court's findings as to the type of property (marital or individual), value of the property, and who got each item or property or debt.
Argument Section of the brief that explains your side of the case. The appellant uses this section to show how the trial court made a mistake in deciding the case, addressing each point raised in the Notice of Appeal. The appellee uses this section to respond to the appellant's arguments, and show why the trial court decision is correct.
Attorney A person who is authorized to act formally for another person. The two most common ways you'll hear this word used is for an attorney-at-law and a power-of-attorney. Attorneys-at-Law are lawyers, who are specially licensed and trained. A power-of-attorney is a trusted person you have authorized in a special way to handle selected business and personal affairs for you.
Attorney's fees If the party who wins the appeal is represented by an attorney, the Supreme Court may order the losing party to pay all or part of the attorney's fees.
Authorities principally relied upon Section of the brief that shows the exact language from the authorities that you rely on in your brief. This includes the important statutes, regulations, constitutional provisions, court rules, or ordinances.

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Bill of costs Form that the winning party files at the end of the appeal that lists all the costs involved in the appeal and verifies what they were.
Bond A written pledge issued for a fee by a bonding company to the appellant that guarantees payment if a future event happens. Bonding companies will make good up to the amount of the bond if the party fails to do what the bond guarantees.
Brief A written statement that each side gives to the Supreme Court that explains why the Court should decide that they are right. A brief presents a party's arguments about the issues on appeal and cites to legal authorities (such as statutes, rules or case law) to support their positions. The Appellant argues why the trial court's decision was an error or mistake; the Appellee argues why the trial court's decision was correct.

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Case law Legal propositions that are based on judicial decisions and precedents rather than on statutes. You can read published decisions in Reporters.
Case Managers The people who work at the Appellate Court Clerk's Office who are assigned to work on a specific appeal from start to finish. The case manager is your point of contact in the Clerk's Office.
Certificate of Distribution A written, dated and signed statement from a court clerk of the date that the document was sent to the parties which is usually found at the bottom of a court order or judgment. You start counting when the Notice of Appeal is due from the date in the certificate of distribution of the trial court's judgment.
Certificate of Service A statement by a party saying how and when you served the other party a legal document that you filed in court. The Appellate Rules require that you send a copy to each opposing party of any document or brief that you file with the court. This is sometimes called a Proof of Service. The certificate of service is found on the bottom of the forms on this website or you can use a separate certificate of service form.
Citation A reference to a legal authority such as a case that has already been decided by a court, a statute, or the Alaska or United States Constitution. This can also be a reference to the excerpt of record, record or the transcript in the case.
Civil case A case to protect the private right of a person or to compel some type of solution in a dispute between parties. These cases usually involve family law issues, money damages or equitable relief (e.g., injunction or specific performance).
Complaint The first document the plaintiff filed in the trial court stating his or her claim(s) against the defendant.
Concurring Opinion An opinion that agrees with the outcome reached by the majority of the justices in the case, but for different reasons. A case may have one or more concurring opinions.
Cost bond $750 bond appellant must file in the Appellate Clerk's Office with the Notice of Appeal to cover the appellee's costs of defending the appeal. If appellant wins, the Clerk's Office will refund the money. If the appellant loses, the appellee will have their costs covered from the cost bond. If you cannot afford the cost bond, you may request to waive it by filing a special form called Request for Waiver of Filing Fee or Cost Bond.
Costs (1) Fees and charges that a party pays to file and present a court case or to enforce a judgment;(2) money that may be awarded to the party who wins the appeal to pay for expenses such as filing fees, bond fees, transcript preparation costs, copying costs or mailing costs.
Court of Appeals The first level appeals court for criminal cases in Alaska. The Court of Appeals hears only appeals of criminal cases and all criminal appeals have the right to be heard in the Court of Appeals.
Criminal case A case dealing with a violation of Alaska's criminal laws.
Cross-appeal An appeal brought by the appellee against the appellant after the appellant has already filed an appeal. To cross-appeal, the appellee needs to file the same documents and follow the same procedure that the appellant files to start the appeal. However, the deadlines and requirements to file appeal briefs may be different with cross-appeals.
Cross-appellant The party who files the cross-appeal. The cross-appellant is also the appellee in the original appeal.
Cross-appellee The party whom the cross-appeal is filed against. The cross-appellee is usually also the appellant in the original appeal.

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Decision A court's judgment, order or decree that settles a dispute and decides an issue.
Decree A court decision, usually at the end of a case when all issues are decided.
Defendant The person being sued by the plaintiff in a civil case or the person charged with a crime in a criminal case.
De novo The standard of review used by the appellate courts when considering questions of law. The court considers the issues by taking a fresh look at the case and do not defer to the lower court's decision. In Latin, novo means "new."
Designation of Transcript A form that is filed at the start of the appeal that provides information about whether you will file a partial or whole transcript or none at all.
Dissent This is what happens when a justice or a minority of the Supreme Court does not agree with the opinion of the majority of the Court. The justices who dissent write a dissenting opinion that expresses their viewpoint but does not determine what the parties ultimately have to do.
District Court A trial court of limited jurisdiction. For more information, visit the Alaska Court System webpage.
Docketing Statement A required form that is filed at the beginning of the appeal. It contains information about the parties, the lower court proceeding, and the final judgment that you are appealing so the Supreme Court can determine whether it has jurisdiction over the appeal.

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Emergency Motion A special motion used when a party asks the Supreme Court for quick consideration of a motion because it is necessary to avoid irreparable harm and relief is needed quicker than would normally be required for the court to receive and consider a response. Appellate Rule 504 is the special rule that discusses these motions.
Enforce To take legal steps to make sure someone complies with a judgment.
Evidence Any proof legally presented at a trial or hearing through witnesses, records, and/or exhibits.
Excerpt of Record Each party selects the most important documents from the lower court record in the case and puts them together in what is called the "excerpt of record." The excerpt makes it easy for the Supreme Court to find the important documents in the case.
Exhibit A paper, document or other physical object received by the lower court as evidence during a trial.

OR

A document or an object shown and identified in court as evidence in a case.
Expedited Appeals The court will expedite (speed up) cases involving issues of child custody, support, visitation, adoption, paternity, determination that a child is in need of services, termination of parental rights, and all other appeals entitled to priority by the Appellate Rules or statute.

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Fee waiver Permission not to pay the court's filing fees. If you have a very low income, you can ask the clerks in the Appellate Clerk's Office for a fee waiver form.
File When a person officially gives a paper to a court clerk and that paper becomes part of the record of a case.
Filing fee The court is required to charge a filing fee for certain types of cases. The fee for an appeal is $150. If you cannot afford the fee, you may request to start your case for free by filing a special form called Request for Waiver of Filing Fee or Cost Bond.
Final Judgment Final decision by the trial court. This judgment resolves all of the issues that were presented in the trial court or administrative agency.
Finding When a judge or jury says something is a fact.

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Hearing A formal court proceeding with the judge and opposing sides present, but no jury.

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Interlocutory Review Similar to an appeal, but filed before the trial court has entered its final order in the case. If you want the Supreme Court to hear an issue before the lower court has made a final judgment, you ask the court to do so by filing a petition for review.

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Judge An official of the judicial branch of government with authority to decide lawsuits brought before courts. The term "judge" may also refer to all judicial officers, including Supreme Court justices.
Judgment A final ruling in a civil or criminal case that can be appealed to the appellate courts. A judgment resolves the key questions in a lawsuit and determines the rights and obligations of the opposing parties.
Jurisdiction The authority or power the court has to act or hear a case and make a decision.
Jurisdictional Statement Section of the brief that shows the court there is a final judgment from the trial court which is being appealed. It states:
  • the name of the trial court
  • the name of the trial court judge
  • the date of the final judgment which is listed on the certificate of distribution of the trial court judgment or decision that you are appealing. This is usually found at the bottom of the judgment and signed or initialed by a clerk.
Justice Judge of the Supreme Court. The Alaska Supreme Court has 5 justices.

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Lawyer A person licensed to practice law. You may contact the Alaska Bar Association to find out if a person is licensed in Alaska. Every state has a Bar Association, which can provide a lot of useful information about the lawyers in its state.
Lawsuit A legal dispute brought to a trial court for resolution.
Log notes Written notes that summarize what was said during court hearings and trial. These notes are not exact transcripts of what the parties, their attorneys, witnesses or the judge said. Instead, the log notes are brief notes of what was said from start to finish. They are included in court files.
Lower court The court where a case starts. This is usually the Superior Court, although it can also be the District Court.

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Majority opinion The written, published opinion by the majority of the justices on an appeal. The justices who disagree prepare a dissenting opinion. Justices prepare a concurring opinion when they agree with the result of the majority opinion but disagree with the reasoning.
Memorandum Order and Judgment (MOJ) A summary written order that ends a Supreme Court appeal. This type of decision is binding on the parties involved because it states their rights and obligations as to the issues on appeal. However, unlike an opinion, it has no precedential value and cannot be cited as authority in other cases.
Motion The document a party files to ask the Supreme Court to do something or to permit one of the parties to do something. For example, a party may file a motion for an extension of time to prepare a brief. Filing a motion is the first step in the process called motion practice, which is controlled by Appellate Rule 503.
Motion for reconsideration This motion is filed when a party wants the Supreme Court to reconsider an order it made. A Motion for Reconsideration must be filed within 10 days after the date of the notice of the order. Appellate Rule 503(h) discusses this type of motion.
Motion practice The process you must use to make written requests to the Supreme Court. First, the movant files a motion. Then the opposing party files an opposition. After reviewing both, the court will make a decision on the motion. See Appellate Rule 503 for more information.
Movant The party who files a motion that asks the court for something.

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Notary public A person authorized under civil law to administer oaths, to certify that certain documents are authentic, and to take depositions. You can sign an affidavit in front of a notary public and show your identification and they will notarize the document for you.
Notice of Appeal A document filed in the Supreme Court that states you are appealing the lower court's final judgment. This document starts the appeal.

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Oath All people must swear or affirm to tell the truth if they want their statement or testimony to be considered as evidence. All written statements must be submitted as affidavits to be considered by the court as evidence.
Opening brief The first brief in the appellate case which the Appellant files. The opening brief sets out the history of the case, explains to the Supreme Court the mistake or error the trial court made in its decision, and argues why the Supreme Court should reverse that decision.
Opinion The written, published decision of the Supreme Court, including the reasons for the decision and the facts on which the decision was based.
Opposition The name of the paper you file in response to the other party's motion. An opposition is the second step in the process called motion practice, and is controlled by Appellate Rule 503(d).
Oral Argument The oral presentation of a party's point of view regarding an appeal. Parties must request oral argument and the court will schedule it if either party requests it. Appellate Rules 213 and 505 discusses oral argument.
Order A written or oral decision by a court or administrative agency that resolves a matter and/or directs the parties to do something. It is usually the court's decision on the request made in a motion.
Original application for relief A request made to the Supreme Court to consider a case or issue that is used when no other category applies. This means that the usual ways to have the Supreme Court hear a case (by filing an appeal, a petition for hearing or a petition for review) do not apply.

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Party The technical legal word for the people who are part of a court case and have a right to ask the court to make a decision on a dispute. At the trial level, the parties are typically called the plaintiff or petitioner and the defendant or respondent. On appeal, parties are called the appellant and appellee.
Perjury Deliberately lying or giving false, misleading, or incomplete testimony under oath.
Personal service Personal delivery of court papers by handing a copy to the person who is served. Process servers deliver court papers for a fee.
Petition Document that asks the court to something, usually to start a case in specific types of proceedings that is similar to a complaint. In civil cases petitions are used to request domestic violence protective orders and dissolutions. In appeals, there are petitions for rehearing and review.
Petition for hearing A request to the Supreme Court to review an appellate decision from a lower appellate court. These are usually filed only in criminal cases.
Petition for rehearing A request to the Supreme Court to rehear a matter that the Court decided. Appellate Rule 506 discusses the basis for this petition.
Petition for review A request to the Supreme Court to review an order issued by the lower court before there is a final judgment in the lower court case. Appellate Rule 403 discusses the basis for this petition.
Petitioner The person who starts a case that uses a petition rather than a complaint to start the case. This person is the petitioner for as long as the case is open.
Plaintiff In a civil case, the party who starts a lawsuit by filing a complaint. In a criminal case, the State of Alaska or the governmental entity that is bringing the case is the plaintiff.
Pleading Written statement filed with the court usually in the beginning of the case that describes a party's legal or factual claims about the case and what the party wants from the court. These are commonly called complaints and answers.
Precedent A published court opinion in an earlier case with facts and legal issues similar to the dispute currently before a court. Judges will generally "follow precedent," meaning that they use the principles established in earlier cases to decide new cases dealing with similar facts and legal issues. A judge will overlook precedent if a party can show that the earlier case was decided incorrectly or that it differed in some significant way from the current case. In Alaska, you cannot cite MOJs because they have no precedential value.
Prevailing party The party who wins a court case.
Procedure The rules for conducting a lawsuit. There are special procedural rules for different kinds of cases such as appeals, civil and criminal cases.
Process server A person who is hired to serve court papers on a party to a lawsuit.
Proof of service The form or part of a form (usually found at the end) filed with the court that certifies that court papers were formally served on (delivered to) a party in a court action on a certain date.
Pro se A person who does not have an attorney and is representing themself in a case. Another word for pro se is "pro per."

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Rebuttal At oral argument, after the appellee argues, the appellant may reserve time for a closing argument to address topics discussed previously during the argument.
Record on appeal All of the paperwork filed in the lower court which the Supreme Court will review in the appeal. This usually includes pleadings, motion papers, evidence, exhibits, orders and the final judgment from the case.
Remand When an appellate court sends a case back to the lower court for further proceedings.
Reply brief This brief is the third brief in the appellate case that the appellant may file. The reply brief addresses issues that were raised previously in either the appellant's opening brief or appellee's brief, but should not raise any new issues. Only the appellant may file a reply brief; the appellee cannot file a reply brief.
Reporter Legal book of published opinions issued by the Alaska Supreme Court. There are two different reporters that contain Alaska Supreme Court opinions: the Alaska Reporter and the Pacific Reporter. The Alaska Reporter contains only opinions from the Alaska Supreme Court. The Pacific Reporter contains decisions of the Supreme Courts of the pacific states, including Alaska.
Reverse When an appellate court sets aside the decision of a lower court. A reversal may be accompanied by a remand to the lower court for further proceedings.
Respondent The person who responds to the filing of a petition.
Rules of Appellate Procedure These are the special rules that regulate the practice and procedure in appellate cases. These are also called the Appellate Rules. The Rules contain information about deadlines for filing different documents in the different stages of the appeal. They also discuss the format for what the documents should look like.

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Serve To deliver legal papers to the opposing party either by mail or personal service according to the Appellate Rules. Also called service of process. You need to tell the court how you served the other side with ever document filed by filling out a certificate of service form. The certificate of service is found on the bottom of the forms on this website or you can use a separate certificate of service form.
Service of process The delivery of legal papers to the opposing party.
Slip opinion

A slip opinion is the final written decision of the Supreme Court that will be published in a book called a Reporter. Slip opinions and published opinions have precedential value. This means that you can cite to the case that the opinion was written about in legal documents such as appeal briefs and motions to support an issue you are arguing in your case.

Standard of review The standard of review is how much weight (or deference) the Supreme Court gives to the Superior Court’s decision when reviewing the decision on appeal. There are different standards of review for different kinds of decisions. A brief contains a section called “standard of review” where the appellant and appellee each state the standard(s) that the Supreme Court should use in reviewing the issues on appeal.
Statement of the Case Section of the brief that contains both a statement of the important facts and a description of the important proceedings that happened in the lower court.
Statement of Issues Presented for Review Section of the brief that lists all of the issues that the Supreme Court needs to decide in the appeal.
Statement of Points on Appeal A form that is filed at the start of the appeal where the Appellant states the issues that they are appealing. Your appeal will only deal with the issues you raise in the Statement of Points on Appeal. This means that the Appellant's appeal brief(s) and the oral argument will only discuss those specific issues.
Statute A law passed by the Alaska Legislature
Stay pending appeal A court order which temporarily suspends court proceedings or the effect of a judgment. Initiating an appeal does not stop the other party from enforcing a trial court judgment. Instead you must file a motion to stay enforcement of judgment pending appeal in the lower court if you want an order staying the effect of the judgment in a civil case. Or instead of a motion for stay, you can ask the Superior Court to approve a supersedeas bond.
Supersedeas Bond When a party appeals a money judgment against them, filing the appeal will not stop the other party from taking action to collect the judgment while the appeal is pending. In order to stop the other side from collecting a money judgment, the appellant may file a motion for stay of execution in the lower court or pay a supersedeas bond. This bond guarantees that the appellant will pay the appellee if the appellant loses the appeal. Appellate Rule 204(d) discusses supersedeas bonds.
Superior Court The trial court of general jurisdiction for civil and criminal cases in Alaska. This court handles domestic relations cases such as divorce, dissolution, custody and child support. The Superior Court serves as the appellate court for appeals from district court cases and administrative agency decisions.
Superior Court Record The Superior Court file, which includes the papers and motions filed in the Superior Court, orders issued by the judge, the exhibits and the electronic record of proceedings.
Supreme Court The highest court in the State of Alaska. The Supreme Court consists of five justices. The Supreme Court hears all civil appeals and some criminal matters that the justices choose to hear.

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Table of Authorities Section of the brief that lists all of the cases, statutes and other authorities that you cite in your brief and the page(s) on which each authority is found in the brief.
Testimony The words spoken during a court proceeding by witnesses that is evidence.
Transcript Written version of everything that was said by the parties, the judge and any witnesses at the trial or hearings in the case. It is made from a recording of the proceeding. You can buy a CD of a proceeding from the court. To get a transcript, you must hire a transcriber who will listen to the recording and write up everything that was said.
Trial A court process where the judge and/or jury hears the legal and factual issues presented by both parties and makes a decision according to the law. The trial can be either before only a judge, or before a judge and jury, depending on the case type.
Trial court The lower court where the case starts which is usually the Superior Court. This court decides the facts and law in the case. The trial court's decision is the one that you appeal to the Supreme Court.

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United States Supreme Court Located in Washington, D.C., it is the highest court in the United States; the U.S. Supreme Court has final appellate jurisdiction and has jurisdiction over all other courts in the nation.

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Waiver of filing fee or cost bond The special form you may file if you cannot afford the filing fee and/or the cost bond to ask the Supreme Court to allow you to start the appeal without paying.
Witness A person called by a party to speak in court under oath about what he or she knows or has observed that is relevant to the case. There are no witnesses used in appeals.

Rev. 1 February 2012
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