A Case’s Journey Through The Courts
When a new conflict arises and you find yourself beginning the litigation process, it can be stressful if you’re unfamiliar with the process. Last week we discussed the general process of litigation. If you missed the discussion, click here https://kellybrandlaw.com/blog/detail/id/304/An-Overview-of-the-Litigation-Process. This week we will discuss the path a case travels through the different levels of the court system in Wisconsin.
Most cases begin at the Circuit Court level. Most counties in Wisconsin have their own Circuit Courts. At the Circuit Court level, all of the steps of the litigation process occur. Pleadings, Discovery stage, and pre-trial preparations. A Circuit Court judge, or sometimes a jury, reviews the evidence and renders a decision. If the party with the unfavorable ruling believes that some error occurred during the litigation process that would have altered the outcome of the case, the party can appeal.
If the losing party appeals, the case will be heard by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. The losing party has the right to appeal the case to the appellate level. There is a time limit on how long the losing party may take to file an appeal. If you are the losing party, it’s very important to consult with your attorney as soon as possible if you are considering undertaking the appeals process. At the appellate level, the losing party, now called the Appellant, will file a brief. This document will detail the errors made at the Circuit Court level and argue that had the errors not been made, the appellant would have won at trial. The party who won at the Circuit Court level, now called the Respondent, will have a chance to file a brief in response to the Appellant’s brief. The Appellate Court may decide that the case requires the parties to meet in person for an oral argument. However, meeting for oral argument is rare. This means that each party’s brief is especially important because it is usually the only opportunity to persuade the Appellate Court. Then, the Appellate Court will render a decision in favor of one party.
The party who loses at the appellate level can petition the Wisconsin Supreme Court for review. However, just because a party petitions the Wisconsin Supreme Court for review does not mean the case will be heard automatically. The Wisconsin Supreme Court chooses which cases to hear on a discretionary basis. If the Supreme Court does not grant a party’s petition for review, the case ends. In this situation, the Appellate Court’s ruling stands. If the Supreme Court of Wisconsin grants a party’s petition for review, each party will file another brief. Additionally, each party will have 30 minutes of oral argument in front of the panel of justices. When the oral arguments are finished, the justices confer and vote. Based on the vote, one justice is chosen to write the opinion for the majority vote. The majority opinion will explain the Supreme Court’s decisions and rationale. State Supreme Court decisions are further appealable to the United States Supreme Court, provided that the case meets certain criteria.
Now that you know a little more about a case’s journey through the Wisconsin court system, you may have questions about your own legal matters. Contact an attorney at Kelly & Brand, Attorneys at Law, LLC for sound legal advice tailored to your unique circumstances.