If you have been convicted of a crime or have lost in a civil suit in New Jersey, you typically have 45 days to appeal to the Superior Court – Appellate Division. This will initiate your appeal and begin the months to year long appellate process. However, there are some situations where this long wait simply will not do. In these cases, you should consider filing an emergency appeal with New Jersey’s appeals court.
The first thing you should know is that you do not have the right to actually “file” an emergent appeal. Rather, you must first apply for permission to file for emergent relief. The process is tricky, and you should certainly consider consulting with an attorney who has experience handling New Jersey criminal and civil appeals.
There are several prerequisites to filing an emergent appeal. The most obvious is that you need to be actually appealing the decision of a trial judge or administrative agency. Make sure that you have received a signed written order from that judge or agency. It is this order that you will technically be “appealing”.
You must notify you adversary of your intention to file an emergent appeal. This can be done by filing a notice of appeal with your adversary, the trial court, and the appellate division judge to whom you will be appealing. Next, you should file a notice of motion for the emergent relief you are seeking. Note that this step is unnecessary if the only relief you are seeking is leave to appeal. A supporting brief is not necessary at this point but it would be prudent to begin preparing one at this time in case your application to file for emergent relief is granted. Finally, you must downloading and prepare the New Jersey Appellate Division’s standard form for applying for emergent relief.
Once you have prepared these documents, you must contact the appropriate judge’s chambers. Figuring out which judge to contact can be a confusing task in itself. You may be tempted to simply contact the closest appeals judge to your home or office. Do not do so, as this will simply delay your appeal. Rather, you can obtain the contact for the appropriate appeals court judge here. Emergent motions are heard on a set calendar, by one judge per week. The calendar is organized by county, with each county being grouped with several surrounding counties to form a “vicinage for emergent applications.”
After identifying the appropriate judge to direct your appeal to, you should telephone his or her chambers and ask to speak with the judge’s law clerk. The law clerk will advise you of the appropriate filing fee and guide you through the rest of the process as each judge seems to handle these applications a bit differently. Yes, some judges are more inclined to entertain emergent appeals than others. It is not unheard of for an application to be denied by the weekly assigned judge, and then resubmitted the following week and granted by the subsequent judge on emergent duty.
The two most important factors in deciding whether you application will be granted are: 1) Is your emergent appeal truly an “emergency,” and 2) What irrevocable harm will you suffer if the application is denied. Classic situations include your house being sold at auction after a foreclosure or a parent planning to leave the state with a child after a divorce. In criminal appeals, typical situations include the loss of your driver’s license after a DWI trial, or the interlocutory appeal of a judge’s (pivotal) evidentiary ruling during a criminal trial.
Oral argument is rare on emergent appeals. Rather, assuming you are granted permission to file an emergent appeal, your appeal will be decided on the papers. While success is hardly a foregone conclusion on any appeal, including emergent appeals, the appellate judges have wide latitude in granting legal and equitable relief when they are convinced that your emergent appeal has merit. For the best chance of winning your appeal, contact a former appeals court attorney for a free consultation.