The news is full of cases involving sexual harassment and the inappropriate behavior of males towards females in the workplace. Some men have been formally charged with crimes, where civil suits have been filed against others, sometimes with multiple victims.
If the #metoo movement is any indication, there are a lot more women stepping forward and sharing their stories. This probably also means more lawsuits and criminal charges, but what do you do if you have a legitimate complaint, and the person you file charges or a lawsuit against wins the first time? What rights do you have? Can you appeal?
The answer, as it is with many other legal matters, is that it depends. In some states you can appeal a civil decision within a certain amount of days, depending on how the case is handled by either a judge or jury. Federal cases are different still.
Know the Requirements
Each court has its own requirements for an appeal. Some are under Federal Law, while others are under the state laws where the case was filed. An attorney can tell you what the best choice for you is, but often you will need to file in the state or jurisdiction where the offense occurred.
For instance, the appellate laws in Michigan will be different from those in Wisconsin, so you will need to know what those are wherever you are filing. If you miss the deadline for an appeal, there is often nothing that can be done about it. There is also different evidence you need to present, and it may need to be filed in different ways. In some cases, electronic filing is acceptable while in others you must file in person or through the mail.
You also need to inform the defendant that you are filing an appeal. And there are only certain things you can appeal, like the application of the law, the legal process, or if new evidence has come to light and you want to add to your case.
Know Your Deadlines
One of the most critical parts of filing an appeal is that there is a deadline. For most jurisdictions this time period is very short, from 14 to 30 days, but can be extended to 90 days if you have to wait for papers by mail or have other reasons to delay filing an appeal. You also need to file any paperwork that goes with the appeal, so that the court knows what specifically you are disputing.
All of this has to be done in a timely manner. While it can take months to get a court date, filing right away is the only way to be assured that your case moves forward.
Find the Right Attorney
Just because you had a good litigation attorney for the original civil trial does not mean that same attorney is right for your appeal. You need an appellate attorney, and one that works in your jurisdiction. Hopefully the attorney you already have is a part of a firm that has these specialists working for them, and you can keep him or her as a partner on the case.
If not, your attorney can often refer you to the right person who can help you the most in your situation. The key to remember is that the right attorney in the right situation can make the difference between victory and failure. It also can make the difference between your appeal being accepted in the first place.
Weigh the Pros and Cons
Of course, there are pros and cons to filing an appeal. If there is publicity surrounding the trial, that publicity will continue, sometimes putting pressure on you and your loved ones. For most victims this is worth it to see that justice is done, but it can take its toll.
There can also be a financial cost. Most litigation attorneys work on contingency when it comes to your initial case, and many civil rights and other groups will help with trial costs going forward from there. However, there is still time off of work, possible travel, and other expenses to consider.
The pro is that seeing the lawsuit through to the end can provide some closure and justice. The caveat is that since the civil case was lost at a lower level, it is possible that even when appeals are exhausted, you might not win. This can be even more emotionally devastating than the initial loss.
An additional pro is the potential financial gain from winning the lawsuit. Although typically the primary purpose of a punitive suit is to punish the person responsible for the offence, it also offers compensation to the victim, and that can be substantial.
Criminal vs. Civil Appeals
In one of the most televised and debated trials ever, O.J. Simpson was not convicted of murder, but was convicted in civil court and a wrongful death suit. The criminal case, where he was found not guilty, could not be appealed by the state or the victim’s families.
However, the civil case could have been if they had lost. This is a part of double jeopardy, the law stating that you can’t be tried for the same crime twice. This can be discouraging in the criminal trial world, so that in some cases criminal charges are never filed due to lack of physical evidence.
This should not deter you from filing a civil suit. The rules of evidence are different, and a good attorney can advise you on how the system works. Simply remember you need to know that if you don’t win the first time, appeals are possible. You just have to know the requirements, know your deadlines, and find the right attorney to pursue your case. Don’t give up, but be aware of the pros and cons of going forward. What you do can make a difference for others as well, and you may only get one chance to make things right.