How Does An Appeal From A Final District Court Decision Work?


Unless your case originated in small claims court or justice court and does not address the constitutionality of a law, the Utah Constitution gives you a right to appeal the final decision of a state district court to one of Utah’s appellate courts—the Utah Court of Appeals or the Utah Supreme Court.

To initiate you the appeal, you must file a notice of appeal with the district court.  You must also pay a fee to the district court within thirty days of the district court’s final decision. At that time or shortly afterward, you will likely need to post a bond to cover costs (typically $300).  You also will need to order transcripts of any relevant hearings, and prepare a docketing statement to help the parties and court evaluate the nature of your claims on appeal.

Which Court Will You Go To?

Depending on the type and nature of your case, your attorney may file your appeal with the Utah Court of Appeals or the Utah Supreme Court. It is important to file your appeal with the correct court, but either court is capable of transferring your case to the other for various reasons. If the Utah Court of Appeals hears your case, you will have an opportunity to convince the Utah Supreme Court to take your case. Decisions of the Utah Supreme Court are typically final, but in some instances, you may attempt to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

Once all fees are paid, transcripts are prepared, and records are forwarded to the appellate courts’ office in Salt Lake City, the clerk of the court will set the due date for you to submit a brief arguing the merits of your case. Put simply, your brief will identify the decision on which the district court may have made a mistake, explain the facts of the case, and argue why the decision was wrong. Once your brief is filed, the opposing party will have a chance to file a brief. This brief will explain why the district court was correct.

You may file a second brief to rebut the opposing party’s brief, but you may not raise new issues. The court will then provide a written decision, perhaps after holding an oral argument. If you win, the written decision will explain what the district court must do or should have done. You will then return to the district court to ensure to appropriately apply the appellate decision.

This explanation is a short and generalized summary of what happens on appeal. If a district court has ruled against you and you are considering an appeal, the clock is ticking. An attorney can help determine when the appeal deadline is. He can counsel you as to whether you have a viable appeal. He will also tell you whether your appeal is worth it, write the briefs, and handle the appeal.