Tag: Appeals

What is a Motion for Reargument and What Effect Does It Have on My Connecticut Family Law Case?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray, a Westport and Greenwich attorney at Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC.

What is a Motion for Reargument?

Under Practice Book Rules 11-11 and 11-12, a party who has litigated a case (or aspect of a case), including a family law case, may file a Motion for Reargument. A Motion for Reargument may be filed after the issuance of a final decision in a family law case, but also may be filed following receipt of an order resulting from most contested proceedings during a family law case, such as a pendente lite order. “[T]he purpose of a reargument is…to demonstrate to the court that there is some decision or some principle of law which would have a controlling effect, and which has been overlooked, or that there has been a misapprehension of facts…It also may be used to address alleged inconsistencies in the trial court’s memorandum of decision as well as claims of law that the [movant] claimed were not addressed by the court.” Opoku v. Grant, 63 Conn. App. 686, 692 (2001). A Motion for Reargument must be filed within twenty days of the issuance of a decision or order, unless you obtain permission from the trial court for an extension of time within which to file.

Why File a Motion for Reargument After a Case Has Been Litigated?

As Opuku indicates, if, after receiving a decision in a Connecticut family law case, it appears that the trial court has overlooked controlling law, or misconstrued the factual evidence before the trial court, you and your lawyer may decide to file a Motion for Reargument. The Motion for Reargument can bring these claims before the trial court, allowing the trial court to reconsider its prior decision and possibly correct the errors you allege. Filing a Motion for Reargument is a way to bring these issues to a trial court such that an appeal of the trial court’s decision or order may be avoided.

Is a Motion for Reargument an Opportunity to Relitigate the Case?

No. A Motion for Reargument does not allow you to raise new claims to the trial court, nor does it allow you to present the same arguments to the trial court in an attempt to convince the judge to overrule his or her decision or order. A properly filed Motion for Reargument points out factual inaccuracies in the trial court’s decision or order and/or raises applicable law that the trial court ignored in the decision or order. The Motion for Reargument is not an opportunity to relitigate your case. If you or your counsel presented your best arguments during the litigation and the trial judge disagreed, a Motion for Reargument will not be an appropriate vehicle. In such a situation, you may be best served by simply filing an appeal if the decision is a final judgment for appeal purposes.

If a Motion for Reargument is Filed in My Connecticut Family Law Case, What Effect Does It Have?

If a Motion for Reargument is filed pursuant to Practice Book Section 11-11, it tolls the time period within which an appeal must be filed. Practice Book Section 11-11 applies to judgments that are final for appeal purposes. Practice Book Section 11-12, on the other hand, applies to judgments that are not final for appeal purposes. If your intention is to file a Motion for Reargument regarding a final judgment for appeal purposes so that the appeal period is tolled, it is critical that you title your Motion for Reargument an “11-11 Motion” and note that it is an 11-11 Motion on the bottom of the first page of the Motion before filing it with the Court. Otherwise, you could jeopardize your ability to appeal your case if you so choose. If you file a Motion for Reargument pursuant to Practice Book Section 11-11, the trial court judge could alter his or her decision if he or she grants the motion. Therefore, the appeal period is extended, as a party may decide that an appeal is not needed following the decision on the Motion for Reargument.

What Happens After a Motion for Reargument is Filed?

Once a Motion for Reargument is filed, the trial court judge who heard the case can either deny the Motion outright without a hearing, or grant the Motion for Reargument. The trial judge’s granting or denying of the Motion is typically done fairly quickly after filing. If the Motion for Reargument is granted, typically the trial court will then schedule a hearing date for reargument, at which time both parties can present their arguments as to why relief should or should not be granted. Following reargument, the trial court judge then will issue a decision on the Motion for Reargument, wherein the relief may or may not be granted. Sometimes, a trial court judge will grant the Motion for Reargument and hold a hearing, but ultimately will not change his or her decision or order following the reargument hearing. The trial judge has 120 days in order to make a decision following argument, but most judges will issue a decision much sooner than that. Once the trial court judge issues the decision regarding the Motion for Reargument, either side has twenty days following the date of reargument decision within which to file an appeal of the original decision or order, again, so long as the Motion for Reargument was framed as a Practice Book 11-11 Motion.

Broder and Orland LLC provides appellate representation, in addition to litigating family and divorce cases at the trial court level. If you are contemplating an appeal and/or have questions regarding whether a Motion for Reargument should be filed in your case following the issuance of a decision or order, contact Sarah E. Murray, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Center for Family Law Appeals.

What Happens at a Preargument Conference in a Connecticut Family Law Appeal?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray.

What is a Preargument Conference?

In most appeals of civil cases in Connecticut, including family law and divorce cases, a Preargument Conference is required prior to the appeal progressing to the briefing and oral argument stages. The Preargument Conference is a confidential settlement opportunity that takes place with an experienced judge who will meet with counsel for both parties and attempt to help the parties reach a settlement in lieu of continuing with the appeal. Because an appeal can be a long, expensive process that usually follows an already extensive period of litigation, the Preargument Conference is an opportunity to avoid continuing litigation in favor of the finality of a settlement.

The Preargument Conference can also provide an opportunity to narrow the issues presented for appeal if the case cannot be globally settled. In discussing the pending appellate issues with the judge at the Preargument Conference, he or she can provide helpful insight into the likelihood of success on appeal. If it is appropriate for the case to be transferred to the Connecticut Supreme Court, the Preargument Conference judge has the authority to recommend that as well.

When is the Preargument Conference Scheduled?

In most family law cases, the Appellate Court will schedule the case for a Preargument Conference prior to briefs being due; so, if the case settles, the conference avoids the parties having to incur significant legal fees for the research and drafting of the brief. Within a few months of an appeal being filed, counsel for the parties will typically receive a notice or letter notifying them of the assigned time and place for the Preargument Conference.

Where does a Preargument Conference Take Place?

The Preargument Conference usually takes place at a different courthouse from the courthouse where your case was tried. On the day of the Preargument Conference, the assigned judge meets with counsel in chambers. It is rare, though not unheard of, for the judge to meet with the parties.

Do I Have to Attend the Preargument Conference?

The short answer to this question is: Yes. According to Connecticut Practice Book Section 63-10, which governs Preargument Conferences: “Unless other arrangements have been approved in advance by the conference judge, parties shall be present at the conference site and available for consultation.” The primary reason that parties must be present for Preargument Conferences is so that they can actively participate in any settlement negotiations and authorize their counsel to enter into a settlement of the case. If a case settles during a Preargument Conference, the Preargument Conference judge has the authority to enter an agreement into the record that day, and the parties must be present in Court in such an event.

Who Attends the Preargument Conference?

Parties and their appellate counsel must attend the Preargument Conference as a rule (see above). At Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC, we find it is useful for trial counsel, if different from appellate counsel, to attend as well, as he or she can sometimes provide helpful input regarding the case and potential avenues for settlement. If there are any other professionals or advisors, financial or otherwise, who can aid in settling the case, it may be helpful for them to attend or be available by telephone to discuss any settlement offers.

What Should I Do to Prepare for a Preargument Conference?

It is helpful to meet or speak with your trial and appellate counsel prior to a Preargument Conference to discuss any settlement offer that you authorize to be made at or before the conference, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of both sides’ cases. If you are the appellant (i.e., the person taking the appeal), you should decide before the Preargument Conference what, if any, settlement you would consider in order to withdraw your appeal. As with any settlement negotiation, you should determine your “best case” scenario as well as your bottom line.

If you are the appellee (i.e., the person defending against the appeal), you may question why, as the person who is not appealing the final judgment in your case, you should consider settling. There are many reasons why an appellee could or should consider settling the case, such as: 1) having the finality of a settled judgment; 2) avoiding the time, expense, and uncertainty of further litigation; and 3) avoiding a reversal of the judgment in your case if that is a real possibility. The appellee should consider in advance of a Preargument Conference any concessions he or she would be willing to make in order for the appeal to be withdrawn.

What Happens to the Appeal if the Case is Settled at the Preargument Conference?

Any global settlement at the Preargument Conference should include a statement that the appeal will be withdrawn with prejudice upon acceptance of the settlement agreement by the trial court.

What Happens after the Preargument Conference if the Case Does Not Settle?

Even if you do not settle the case at the Preargument Conference, your case can still be settled at any time before the appeal is decided by the Appellate Court. If the case is not settled that the Preargument Conference, the appellant must begin preparation of his or her brief, as the deadline for submission usually falls within approximately 45 days of the Preargument Conference. The Preargument Conference judge does have the authority to extend the time for the filing of the appellant’s brief in the event that the appellate counsel needs more time or in the event that the parties request additional time to attempt to settle the case.

Broder and Orland LLC provides appellate representation in addition to litigating family and divorce cases at the trial court level. If you are contemplating an appeal, contact Sarah E. Murray, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Center for Family Law Appeals.

Appeals in Connecticut Family Law Cases

Every Connecticut litigant has the right to appeal a final judgment entered by a trial court.  In divorce cases, these appeals often arise after the trial court enters financial orders, but, on occasion, there may be sufficient cause to appeal a trial court’s orders concerning the custody of and/or visitation with minor children.  In Connecticut, an appeal must be filed no later than twenty days after the court issues notice of its decision.  It is important that if you receive a decision from the trial court with which you disagree or that you do not understand, you seek out the advice of seasoned appellate counsel immediately.  If your former spouse is filing an appeal, you should speak with an appellate lawyer to make sure that your position is adequately defended on appeal and to ensure that your rights are protected during the pendency of the appeal.  The attorneys at Broder and Orland LLC have experience representing individuals in Connecticut’s Appellate Courts and can help answer your questions.

In Connecticut, most appeals from a trial court’s final judgment are heard and decided by the Connecticut Appellate Court.  After the Appellate Court has rendered a decision, a party can ask the Connecticut Supreme Court to review the decision of the Appellate Court.   On rare occasions, an appeal of a trial court’s final judgment can be heard directly by the Supreme Court without the need to seek review first with the Appellate Court.  This can occur when: (1) the appeal concerns an issue that has never been ruled upon by the Appellate Court or the Supreme Court in Connecticut; (2) the appeal raises an issue where the Appellate Court has issued disparate opinions in the past that are in need of being harmonized; or (3) when the Supreme Court determines that the issue at hand is a matter of utmost public importance.

Once an appeal is filed, the order(s) associated with the final judgment may be automatically stayed.  This means that until the appeal is finally concluded, the trial court cannot enforce the order(s) that are the subject of the appeal.  A common example of the automatic stay in practice in family cases occurs where the trial court orders that the marital home be sold.  Pursuant to the automatic stay rule, that order would not be enforced during the pendency of the appeal without the trial court terminating the stay of execution of that order.  The trial court can terminate the automatic stay of its orders on its own volition or after a motion is filed by either party.  In such a situation, the trial court is not the final arbiter of determining whether there should or should not be a stay of execution of its order.  A party aggrieved by orders regarding the termination of a stay can seek review of those orders by the Appellate Court.

There are certain exceptions to the automatic stay rule that are permitted by the Practice Book in family cases.  For example, final orders concerning periodic alimony, child support, custody, and visitation are not automatically stayed pending an appeal.  If you are unhappy with the court’s alimony orders, those orders will go into effect during the pendency of your appeal unless you ask the court to impose a stay where there is not one automatically imposed by the court rules.  The Appellate Court has the same power to review the issuance of a stay as it does the termination of one.

The likelihood of success on appeal is largely determined by the level of scrutiny applied by the Appellate Court.  The Appellate Court has broad authority to overturn a trial court’s decision when the decision rests upon a question of law which would include a constitutional claim, interpretation of prior precedents, and statutory interpretation.  This is referred to as plenary review; the Appellate Court decides the issue anew.  Issues concerning factual findings by the trial court or any other decision where the court has the discretion to enter an order as it sees fit is governed by the abuse of discretion standard of review.  Unlike plenary review, the Appellate Court will defer or give the benefit of the doubt to the considerations and determinations made by the trial court.  Mixed issues of law and fact invoke the plenary review standard.  The attorneys at Broder and Orland LLC can review your case to tell you which standard of review would apply to your case.

Unlike the trial court, the Appellate Court does not seek or require the submission of new evidence or new testimony.  The cases at this level are resolved after each party submits well-researched briefs and argues his or her position before the Appellate Court.  In addition to reviewing the trial court’s decision, preparation of an appellate brief requires review of the transcripts from the trial court proceedings at issue and review of the exhibits submitted to the trial court judge.   The party who filed the appeal files the first brief and the other party files a brief in response to the appealing party’s brief.  The appealing party gets the final word and files a reply brief to the responsive brief.  After all of the briefs are filed, the Appellate Court will schedule a date for oral argument before a panel of Appellate judges.  At the Appellate Court, the panel typically consists of three judges.  At the Supreme Court, the panel consists of seven justices.   A party may attend oral argument, but is not required to do so.

Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC is a full-service family law firm that can provide you with seasoned, practical and vigorous representation in all aspects of family law appellate litigation in Connecticut.