Massachusetts Appeals Court
Single Justice Petition • Interlocutory Appeal • Final Judgment Appeal
The Mass. Appeals Court is typically the venue for appellate review of a state trial court decision. Relatively few cases proceed further on appeal. When they do, it is often a result of a petition for direct appellate review (DAR) or for further appellate review (FAR) to the Supreme Judicial Court (commonly referred to as the SJC).
Litigation in the MA Appeals Court differs significantly from that of the trial court. An appeals lawyer must be knowledgeable of the rules of appellate procedure and be skilled in appellate level legal research, analysis, writing, and oral argument.
MA Appeals Court
Single Justice Petition and Interlocutory Appeal
Pursing a single justice petition or interlocutory appeal in the Mass. Appeals Court requires the filing of a petition, which must be served, and payment of the requisite entry fee. A hearing, if any, will be scheduled by the MA Appeals Court. The single justice has the power to dispose of matters in various way. The single justice may:
- Decline to act
- Decide the matter appealed
- Allow or deny the relief requested, in whole or in part
- Transfer the case to a lower court for determination
- Remand the case to the trial court to establish a record or advise the trial court to proceed in a certain manner, or
- Reserve ruling and report the matter to the full court.
Whether the decision of the single justice may be taken to a panel appeal in the Mass. Appeals Court is dependent upon the nature of the action.
MA Appeals Court Single Justice Petitions
Permissible single justice petitions of the Mass. Appeals Court are defined by statute or rule. If you are considering a single justice matter then time is likely of the essence! Call Appeals Attorney William Driscoll immediately for a free telephone consultation.
Some single justice petitions require that a Notice of Appeal be filed within as little as seven to ten days after the trial court judgment, and the decision of the single justice is final (i.e., no further appeal permitted). Examples include:
- Summary process appeal bond from the Superior and Housing Courts;
- Appeals for denial of indigence status, costs or fees; and,
- Jurisdictional amount dismissals.
Other single justice petitions require the same short time to file a Notice of Appeal, but the decision may be appealed further. Examples include:
- Review of impoundment orders; and,
- Appeal of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, §§ 6F and 6G attorney fee awards.
Still other single justice petitions have a longer filing deadline and may be appealed further. Examples include:
- Motions for leave to file a Notice of Appeal late;
- Motions seeking a stay or injunction pending appeal; and,
- Procedural motions to assist pending appeals.
When it comes to single justice petitions in the Mass. Appeals Court obtain competent legal advice early!
MA Appeals Court Interlocutory Appeals
An interlocutory appeal to the MA Appeals Court is a request for appellate review of a trial court decision entered before a final judgment that cannot be remedied on appeal after final judgment. For example, if you are denied counsel of your choice before trial, then waiting until after trial to appeal will not remedy the loss.
As a general rule, a person must await the final outcome at trial before pursuing appeal. An interlocutory appeal is the exception to the general rule. An interlocutory appeal of a pending case permits immediate appeal of certain interim or temporary orders to prevent an injustice. It is not to second guess the discretion of the trial court judge.
The Mass. Appeals Court accepts interlocutory appeals from the Superior Court, Probate and Family Court, Land Court, and Housing Court. A single justice of the MA Appeals Court presides over and decides interlocutory appeals.
To qualify for interlocutory appeal the decision of the lower court must:
- Not be a final order;
- Interfere with a litigant's rights in a way that cannot be remedied on appeal from the final judgment; and,
- Involve issues collateral to any remaining controversy.
To seek an interlocutory appeal in the Mass. Appeals Court the timely payment of the filing fee and service of the petition, memorandum, record appendix must be made. These cases move quickly. It is important to act immediately upon the notification of a decision that may qualify for interlocutory appeal!
Contact Appeals Attorney Driscoll immediately for a free telephone consultation to determine whether you have a valid issue for interlocutory appeal.
MA Appeals Court Final Judgment Appeals
When the appeal of a final judgment is pursued to the Mass. Appeals Court, it is decided by a panel of three appellate justices. A final judgment is a decision that ends litigation on the merits and leaves nothing to be done except to execute the judgment. On appeal, the Appeals Court looks for errors in the procedure used, facts determined, or conclusions drawn in the lower court and, if found, remedies the error.
The MA Appeals Court hears panel appeals on final judgments of the:
- Superior Court
- Probate and Family Court
- Land Court
- Housing Court
- Juvenile Court
- The Appellate Tax Board
- Employment Relations Board
- Department of Industrial Accidents
- The Appellate Division of the District Court
- The Appellate Division of the Boston Municipal Court
- Appeals from orders of a single justice of the Appellate Division of the District Court or Appellate Division of the Boston Municipal Court granting relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 218, § 19C
- Cases from any court involving 209A restraining orders
- Cases from any court involving 258E harassment orders
- Judgments of any court involving contempt
- Certain Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 139, § 19 landlord-tenant proceedings
- All zoning cases
- Cases originating in the Department of Employment and Training.
The decision to appeal requires legal analysis and appellate level research. The standards of appellate review are determined by the issue in question. Appeals Attorney William Driscoll advises clients, on a case-by-case basis, of the benefits and drawbacks of pursuing appeal to the MA Appeals Court. Whether you wish to challenge a final judgment or find yourself defending the final judgment, contact Appeals Attorney William Driscoll for a free telephone consultation to discuss your the merits of your case on appeal.
It All Starts by Filing a Notice of Appeal
To seek appellate review of a final judgment requires the timely filing of a notice of appeal. Although any case can be appealed--but not every case should be appealed. As an appeals lawyer, Attorney William Driscoll provides an experienced opinion as to the benefit and drawback of pursuing appeal. He will review your case, explain the legal issues faced, and provide an estimate of fees and costs so that you may make an educated decision. He offers fair and reasonable expectations. Remember, if you are considering appeal then there is only a limited amount of time in which to file your Notice of Appeal!
Is Direct Appellate Review (DAR) an Option?
Once the appeal of a final judgment is entered in the MA Appeals Court there are three methods for it to proceed directly to the State's highest appellate court, the Supreme Judicial Court (commonly referred to as the SJC).
- Appellate counsel petitions for Direct Appellate Review (DAR) when the case enters the Appeals Court;
- The SJC transfers the case from the MA Appeals Court to the SJC on its own initiative; or,
- The MA Appeals Court certifies the case for direct review in the SJC.
Direct appellate review in the SJC is typically appropriate when at least one of the following criteria is met:
- There is a question of first impression or a novel question of law that should be submitted for final determination to the SJC;
- There are questions of law concerning the Massachusetts Constitution or questions concerning the U.S. Constitution that have been properly raised in a Court of the Commonwealth; or,
- There are questions of important public interest that justice requires a final determination by the SJC.
Petitions are filed along with payment of the filing fee.
Why petition for direct appellate review in the SJC? Statistics indicate that a petition for direct appellate review is more likely to succeed than a petition for further appellate review (after a decision in the Mass. Appeals Court). This result makes sense; only one appeal is provided as a matter of right. A second appeal of the same case is a matter of SJC discretion, not a matter of right.
Whether your case is a candidate for direct appellate review to the SJC is a legal question that you may address with Appeals Attorney William Driscoll. He pursues petitions for direct appellate review for his clients and objects to an opponent's petition for direct appellate review when the petition is unwarranted.
Is Further Appellate Review (FAR) an Option?
When a panel of the Massachusetts Appeals Court decides the merits of an appeal, one party may seek further appellate review. There are three ways in which a decision of the MA Appeals Court can proceed to the Supreme Judicial Court for further appellate review:
- Appellate counsel can petition the SJC for further appellate review;
- The MA Appeals Court can certify that further appellate review in the SJC is in the public interest or in the interest of justice--this route is very rarely exercised; or,
- The SJC can authorize leave to obtain review for substantial reasons affecting the public interest or the interests of justice--this route is rarely exercised.
Petitions for further appellate review are filed along with payment of the filing fee ($315 in 2012).
Cases that have been decided in the Mass. Appeals Court have been afforded an appeal as a matter of right. There is no right to a second appeal. A second appeal of the same case is a matter SJC discretion.
Whether your case is a candidate for further appellate review to the SJC is a legal question that you may address with Appeals Attorney William Driscoll. He pursues petitions for further appellate review for his clients and files an objection to an opponent's petition for further appellate review when the petition is unwarranted.
Appeals Attorney William M. Driscoll
Appeals Attorney William Driscoll represents clients in the Massachusetts State Court System before the Massachusetts Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court. His practice focuses on civil matters, the broad range of non-criminal legal matters from ranging from adoption to zoning.
Appeals Attorney William Driscoll is:
- Conversant in the rules and procedures unique to the appellate court;
- Possesses appellate level research, writing, and oral argument skills;
- Commits large blocks of time to perform each function properly; and,
- Offers a free telephone consultation to discuss the merits of your case.
For further information and and to discuss how your case applies in the Massachusetts Appeals Court please contact Appeals Attorney William Driscoll for a free telephone consultation.