Calculate the Relevant Time Period and Earliest Possible Deadline
In most cases, the time for taking an appeal starts to run upon the "entry of the judgment appealed from," which is typically when the clerk enters the final judgment or order on the docket. Rule 4 of the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure and the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure both allow 30 days from the entry of judgment, in most civil cases, in which to file a Notice of Appeal.
In a federal criminal case, however, the defendant has only 10 days after the entry of the judgment or order being appealed in which to file the Notice of Appeal.
Draft the Notice of Appeal
The Notice of Appeal is a simple, straightforward document. It must contain the following: (A) the party or parties taking the appeal; (B) the judgment or order being appealed; and (C) the name of the court to which the appeal is being made.
File the Notice of Appeal Before the Deadline
Whether you are in state or federal court, in a civil or criminal case, to begin the appellate process you must file a Notice of Appeal. The Notice of Appeal must be filed with the clerk of the Trial Court (NOT with the Appeals Court) within the time allowed by the relevant rules of procedure. In Federal Court, you must provide the clerk of the District Court with enough copies of the notice to accomplish service on all parties (including the party appealing).
Compliance With Federal Rules
If you are filing an appeal in the First Circuit Court of Appeals, you must observe carefully the local rules of procedure, particularly Local Rule 3.0, which requires a docketing statement to be filed with the clerk of the Court of Appeals within 14 days after filing the Notice of Appeal.
Pay the Required Filing Fees
In order to commence an appeal, you must pay a filing fee in most cases. In the First Circuit, the filing fee (as of November, 2008) is $455, payable to the Clerk of the District Court. Pursuant to Federal Local Rule 3.0, the fee must be paid within 7 days of filing the Notice of Appeal or the appeal may be dismissed.
In Massachusetts state court, the filing fee for an appeal to a full panel of the Appeals Court (as of November 2008) is $300.
Comply with the Rules Concerning Ordering of Transcripts / Assembly of the Record
After filing the Notice of Appeal and paying the required fees, the hard work begins. You must review the Rules of Appellate Procedure applicable to your appeal (i.e., the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure or the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure and Local Rules for the First Circuit) with great care. Appellate procedure is highly technical and there are many traps for the unwary. Consultation with an appellate attorney, as early as possible after the adverse judgment, is advisable.
Additional resources provided by the author
Also see the following:
Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure
Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure
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