What is the Court of Appeals?
The Court of Appeals is Indiana’s second-highest court. Most legal cases appealed from Indiana’s trial courts go to the Court of Appeals. The Court does not re-try cases, but it does clarify questions of law raised by trial court decisions. Learn more.
Can the Court of Appeals of Indiana provide legal advice or help me find an attorney?
No. The Court of Appeals does not provide legal advice or refer attorneys. Its constitutional function is to decide legal cases on appeal. Other groups provide legal advice; the Indiana State Bar Association may provide guidance. Their website is http://www.inbar.org/.
What kinds of cases are appealed to the Court of Appeals?
The Court of Appeals hears both civil and criminal appeals. It does not hear appeals of criminal cases if the sentence is death or life-without-parole, nor does it hear cases involving taxation or attorney discipline. Most other cases are appealed first to the Court of Appeals. The Court issues more than 2,500 opinions annually. Because the Indiana Supreme Court accepts approximately 100 cases per year on average from all lower courts, the Court of Appeals has final jurisdiction in most appellate cases in Indiana.
How does a person apply to be a judicial clerk for the Court of Appeals?
This website now provides details on clerking for the Court of Appeals. Learn more.
How does a lawyer or a trial judge apply to become a judge of the Court of Appeals of Indiana?
When a vacancy arises on the Court of Appeals, the state Judicial Nominating Commission seeks candidate applications from the district of the state with the opening. Following an extensive interview process, the Commission selects three finalists, who must have been admitted to the practice of law in Indiana for a minimum of 10 years or served as a trial court judge for at least five years.
The Commission forwards their three selections to the governor, who makes the final appointment. Nine of the 15 current judges of the Court served as trial court judges prior to their appointments. Learn more about judges of the Court.
What is “retention” and how does it work?
In Indiana, the electorate decides whether appellate judges should be retained on the bench. Judges of the Court of Appeals of Indiana and justices of the Indiana Supreme Court are appointed by the governor and then stand for retention by voters in the first general election after they have served two years, and every 10 years thereafter. Citizens decide whether to retain a judge on the bench by a yes or no vote. The retention system ensures that Indiana’s judges decide cases without political influence. Learn more about the retention system.
What are the districts of the Court of Appeals? How does the district system work?
Though each judge on the Court of Appeals has statewide jurisdiction, the 15 judges were appointed to the Court from different corners of the state to ensure a geographical balance. The 1st District of the Court of Appeals encompasses the southern third of the state, the 2nd District the middle third, and the 3rd district the northern third. When in the late 1970s an increasing case load dictated adding judges to the Court, the legislature added one—and eventually two—statewide districts, consisting of one judge from each of the first three districts. There are therefore five judges from each of the three geographical districts on the Court of Appeals. Learn more about the district system.
How many judges decide each case? How do three-judge panels work?
The Court of Appeals hears cases in three-judge panels to ensure a fair review of the decision of a single trial court judge, and to prohibit the chances of an evenly-divided panel. The Court does not hear cases “en banc,” meaning as a full court of 15, but judges do rotate panels regularly using a mathematical formula so that all 15 work with one another over a 2-1/2 year period. Cases are randomly assigned. Learn more about the three-judge panel.
What is a senior judge and what do they do? Who are the Court of Appeals' senior judges?
Senior judges are former judges who work part-time at Indiana courts. Former judges of any age apply to the Judicial Nominating Commission to be certified as senior judges. Once approved, a senior judge is assigned to work at a court based on its need for assistance. (Learn about the Senior Judge program.) In 1998, the Indiana statute providing for senior judges at the trial court level was amended to allow senior judges to work at the Court of Appeals. Senior judges at the Court of Appeals have the same powers and responsibilities of current judges. They serve on three-judge panels and the Court’s motions panel. Six senior judges currently serve on the Court of Appeals and all are former judges of the Court or the Supreme Court: Hon. Betty Barteau, Hon. William Garrard, Hon. Patrick D. Sullivan, Hon. John T. Sharpnack, Hon. Carr L. Darden and Hon. Randall T. Shepard. Learn more.
All appeals are filed with the Clerk of Courts, located in Room 217 of the Indiana State House. Do not file an appeal at the Court of Appeals.
Can the Court of Appeals choose whether to accept an appeal?
No. The Court of Appeals must accept all appeals sent to it; members do not have an option to decline individual appeals. As a result, the 15 members of the Court of Appeals issue some 2,500 written opinions each year.
How long will an appeal take?
It usually takes at least six months for all briefs to be filed and the full review process to take place. There is no time limit for Court of Appeals judges to issue a decision in a case, but the Court strives to be timely.
What is a motions panel? What does it do?
The 15 judges of the Court of Appeals share the duty of sitting on the Court's motions panel at regular intervals. This three-judge panel reviews many of the motions filed with the Court before a case is assigned to a judge. The motions panel determines matters related to jurisdiction and procedure. Only current and senior judges may sit on the motions panel. Three of the Court's staff attorneys aid the motions panel.
What is an ‘oral argument?’
Most cases before the Court of Appeals are presented in written form, as briefs. Occasionally the Court or the parties involved will ask for an oral, or spoken, argument before the assigned three-judge panel. The attorneys representing the two sides will present the oral argument to the judges. The two sides are usually given 20 or 30 minutes each to argue their case. The Court’s opinion is based on both the written briefs and the oral argument.
Where do oral arguments take place?
Oral arguments are held in the Court of Appeals courtroom on the 4th floor of the State House in Indianapolis, and on occasion in the Supreme Court courtroom on the 3rd floor of the State House. (The Supreme Court courtroom is requested if the Court of Appeals courtroom is in use, or if the oral argument is to be webcast.) The Court of Appeals also hears oral argument at venues across the state to allow the public to watch and learn about the judiciary. Learn more about “traveling oral arguments.”
How may a school or bar association request that the Court hear an oral argument in an Indiana community?
The best ways are to ask a local circuit or superior court judge or bar association president to make the request of the Court or write to a Court of Appeals judge. See our list of judges by district.
Are there tips for attorneys arguing before the Court of Appeals?
The Court offers no specific oral argument guide, but general guidelines are available.
Does the Court of Appeals issue a written opinion in each case, or does it simply “affirm” or “reverse” the lower court?
The Court of Appeals writes a full opinion for each case. In other states, intermediate appellate judges often issue one word decisions (“affirmed” or “reversed”), but our Court will issue a written opinion.
Once the Court receives a case on appeal, how long before it hands down a decision?
The Court will usually issue a decision within four months of receiving a case, though often a decision is handed down sooner.
What is the basis for determining whether a decision is “For Publication” or “Not For Publication” (NFP)? Who makes the NFP determination?
The three-judge panel for each case decides whether the opinion is “For Publication,” meaning it can be cited as precedent in future cases, or “Not For Publication” (NFP), meaning it may not be cited as precedent. The determination is made only after a written opinion has been completed. The distinction between “For Publication” and “Not For Publication” is determined by Appellate Rule 65. “For Publication” cases are those that “establish, modify or clarify a rule of law; criticize existing law; or involve a legal or factual issue of unique interest or substantial public importance.” The Court of Appeals makes both “For Publication” and “NFP” decisions available on the Appellate Opinions portion of this website.
Who writes the opinion in each case? How is this determined?
Once a case arrives at the Court, it is initially randomly assigned to one judge. All three judges assigned to the panel review the briefs in the case and sit for oral argument if there is one. Once the three judges confer on the case, they determine who will write the majority opinion. Sometimes in the course of exchanging drafts of a decision, individual opinions on points of law shift, and a different judge among the three takes over the lead role. Cases are decided by a 3-0 or 2-1 majority. At times, the judge in the minority will issue a written dissent.
How often are Court of Appeals decisions appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court?
Court of Appeals rulings are frequently appealed to the state Supreme Court—in a move known in Indiana as “requesting transfer”—but the Supreme Court does not always grant transfer, or accept the appeal. Because the Indiana Supreme Court grants transfer in a smaller percentage of cases than the Court of Appeals decides, the Court of Appeals has final jurisdiction in most appellate cases in Indiana.
What is a certified decision and how is it different from a regular decision?
The Court of Appeals is an intermediate appellate court. This means that its decisions are subject to review by the Indiana Supreme Court. If a decision of the Court of Appeals—which is published on the Court’s website when it is “handed down”—is appealed to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court accepts the appeal (in Indiana, known as "granting transfer”), then the Court of Appeals decision may not be final. Court of Appeals decisions are not “certified” as final until the Indiana Supreme Court denies transfer in the case, or until the time for transfer has lapsed. Court of Appeals decisions are also certified when the Supreme Court, upon granting transfer, affirms the Court of Appeals' ruling.