An appeal is a procedure used to correct legal errors made in court. The appealing party (called the appellant) requests that a higher court review the proceedings of a lower court to correct potentially important legal mistakes. A notice of appeal is the document that initiates the appeal.
The notice of appeal is a simple document, but it must contain certain essential information or the appellate court might decide that the appeal was not validly commenced. This article explains the process of initiating a civil appeal in California state courts by filing a notice of appeal.
- 1 Deadline to File the Notice of Appeal
- 2 Late Notices of Appeal Are Not Accepted
- 3 Orders or Judgments that Can Be Appealed
- 4 Preparing the Notice of Appeal
- 5 Serving the Notice of Appeal
- 6 Filing the Notice of Appeal
- 7 What Happens Next?
- 8 Where Will the Appeal Be Heard?
- 9 Final Thoughts
Deadline to File the Notice of Appeal
A notice of appeal may be filed after the appealable judgment or order is entered.1 The deadline for filing the notice of appeal will depend on when the judgment or order from which the appeal is taken has been entered, and how it was served.
When a Judgment or Order Is “Entered”
A judgment or order is entered when it is filed with the clerk of the superior court.2 The clerk will either stamp the document with the date of filing or will electronically affix a filing date to the document.
If the court has “rendered” its order or judgment, but has not formally “entered” it, the notice of appeal is technically premature. An order or judgment is rendered at the moment the judge signs it, but it is entered only when it is filed with the clerk of the superior court.3 Even though the notice of appeal in this situation is premature, the court will accept it and treat it as being timely filed immediately after entry of the order or judgment.4
If the court has announced its order or judgment, but has not formally entered or rendered it, the notice of appeal is premature. Unlike rendered judgments, however, the court is not required to accept it. Rather, the court of appeal has discretion to treat the notice of appeal as timely filed, but is not required to do so.5
Calculating the Deadline
Once the appealable order or judgment has been entered, the next question is whether the clerk of the superior court or any party has served a document called a “notice of entry of judgment” or a filed-endorsed copy of the judgment. Like the name implies, a notice of entry of judgment notifies all parties that the judgment has been entered.
In unlimited civil cases in California state courts, the applicable deadline for will usually be the earliest6 of the following:
- If a notice of entry of judgment or a filed-endorsed copy of the judgment was served on or served by the party filing the notice of appeal, the time for filing the notice of appeal is 60 days after judgment was entered.7 This is the deadline in most unlimited civil appeals.
- If no notice of entry of judgment or filed-endorsed copy of the judgment has been served, the time for filing the notice of appeal is 180 days after judgment was entered.8
There are, of course, exceptions to these deadlines. Some statutes or court rules might shorten or lengthen the time to appeal in certain circumstances.9
Late Notices of Appeal Are Not Accepted
Filing the notice of appeal on time is essential. Unless the Notice of Appeal is timely filed, the court of appeal will not have jurisdiction to hear or decide the appeal. The court has no authority to extend the time for filing or to excuse a tardy filing.10
The safest practice is to file the notice of appeal as soon as possible after the appealable judgment or order is entered.
Orders or Judgments that Can Be Appealed
Most of the time, the losing party in a California lawsuit has the right to bring an appeal in a California appellate court.11 That right generally extends only to the first appeal.
But not every decision of a trial court can be appealed. Only an aggrieved party can file an appeal, and they can only do so from an appealable order or judgment.12
- Who is a party of record, and
- Whose rights or interests are adversely affected by the judgment.15
A party of record includes each plaintiff who brought the lawsuit, and each defendant who was sued. Other people are sometimes allowed to join a lawsuit as parties to protect their interests. A person who does not like the result of a lawsuit but was not a party to it cannot usually appeal its outcome.16
A party’s rights or interests are adversely affected by a judgment if the judgment directly injures them in some way. That injury must be an immediate and substantial consequence of the judgment.17
A party who prevailed in a lawsuit and won all the relief that they sought is not aggrieved by the result and has no right to appeal.
Not every decision a trial court makes can be appealed immediately. An appellate court has jurisdiction over a direct appeal only when there is:
- An appealable order, or
- An appealable judgment.18
Whether a judgment or order is appealable is determined by statute.19
A judgment is the decision of a court that determines the rights of the parties as to a particular cause of action.20 A judgment is a final judgment if it resolves all claims raised in the action.21 A final judgment is generally appealable.22
Judgments and orders are usually only appealable if they are final, but there are some exceptions provided by statutes.23 Additionally, even if an order effectively ends a lawsuit, it can only be appealed if a statute authorizes the appeal.24 When no statute authorizes the appeal from an order, it may be necessary to obtain a judgment before an appeal can be taken.
These rules are intended to avoid piecemeal appeals.25 Trial courts typically enter many orders during the course of a lawsuit. Most of them are not final orders. Allowing every order to be appealed immediately would result in protracted litigation and would impose undue burdens on appellate courts.26
Orders that deny a motion for summary judgment,27 admit or exclude evidence,28 or require a party to answer a discovery request29 are examples of nonfinal orders that usually cannot be immediately appealed.
This does not mean, however, that erroneous court rulings will necessarily go uncorrected. An appeal from a final judgment entered in the lawsuit allows the appellate court to review all adverse rulings made by the trial court, including nonfinal orders that were entered as the lawsuit proceeded.30
When adverse rulings and orders made during litigation may have affected the judgment, they can often be reviewed on appeal from the final judgment.
Preparing the Notice of Appeal
A standard form for the notice of appeal is available that contains all the required information. Appellate courts do not require people who appeal to use the standard form,31 but departing from it carries the risk that the appeal will be rejected because vital information is missing from the notice of appeal.32
There are three types of civil cases, each of which have their own notice of appeal form:
- Unlimited civil cases. An unlimited civil case is generally one in which the plaintiff sued for a judgment of more than $25,000. Certain other kinds of civil lawsuits, including family law cases, are also considered unlimited civil cases.33 The standard notice of appeal for unlimited civil cases is Form APP-002.
- Limited civil cases. A limited civil case is generally one in which the plaintiff sued for a judgment of $25,000 or less.34 The standard notice of appeal for limited civil cases is Form APP-102.
- Small claims cases. A small claims case is generally one in which the matters disputed are worth less than $10,000.35 The standard notice of appeal for small claims cases is Form SC-140. Small claims appeals are not addressed in this article.
Each of the forms asks for essentially same information, but in a somewhat different format. Regardless of the format, the notice of appeal must be filled out completely, accurately, dated, and signed before it is filed.
Serving the Notice of Appeal
After the notice of appeal is prepared, a copy must be served on all opposing parties.36 If the opposing party is represented by an attorney, the notice of appeal is served on the attorney. If the opposing party represented himself or herself, the notice of appeal is served on the party.37
The notice of appeal can be served in person by a process server, or it can be mailed through the United States Postal Service.38 In most cases, mailing is a more cost-effective means of assuring service.
The person who mails the notice of appeal to the opposing parties must: be age 18 or older, reside in the county where the notice is mailed, and must not be a party to the lawsuit.39 That person must prepare a proof of service form that specifies the date on which the notice of appeal was mailed and the address to which it was mailed.40
A proof of service form is available on Form POS-040 (for documents filed in the superior court) and Form APP-009 (for documents filed in the courts of appeal). The proof of service form must be signed under penalty of perjury.41
An unsigned copy of the proof of service must be attached to the copy of the notice that is being served.42 The notice of appeal and proof of service must be placed in a sealed envelope, addressed to the party (or the party’s attorney), with correct postage affixed. The envelope must then be deposited in a post office or mailbox.43
Once the notice has been mailed, the person who mailed it must sign the original proof of service. The signed proof of service is then attached to the notice of appeal.44 At that point, the notice of appeal is ready to be filed.
Filing the Notice of Appeal
The notice of appeal and the attached proof of service must be filed with the clerk of the superior court that entered the judgment or order that is being appealed.45
The clerk’s office can direct you to the appropriate counter or room where the notice of appeal should be filed or mailed to.
A $775 filing fee is usually required to be paid when the notice of appeal is filed.46
What Happens Next?
If the notice of appeal has been timely filed, the lower court’s jurisdiction is terminated and jurisdiction over the case is transferred to the appellate court.47
But, as mentioned above, the notice of appeal is only the first step of an appeal. From there, the appellate record will need to be filed, each party will have to file at least one brief, and the case might go to oral argument.
A basic timeline of the appeals process in California looks something like this:
To learn more about the steps in a civil appeal, please review my article: The Civil Appeals Process in California Courts, Explained
Where Will the Appeal Be Heard?
There are two types of appellate courts that hear civil cases in California:
- The appellate division of the superior court, and
- The courts of appeal.48
Both courts follow similar procedures, although appeals in the appellate division are somewhat simplified. And both courts are intermediate courts of review—meaning, they review the decisions of the superior courts, but are below the Supreme Court of California.49
Appeals are heard by the appellate division of the superior court in limited civil cases. Limited civil cases are primarily those in which a lawsuit asks for $25,000 or less in damages.50
Appeals are heard by the California Court of Appeal in unlimited civil cases.51 Unlimited civil cases are those in which a lawsuit asks for more than $25,000 in damages. They can also involve disputes that go beyond the jurisdiction of limited civil courts.
The California Court of Appeal is divided into six appellate districts.52 More than one hundred justices serve on the court of appeal. The number of justices assigned to each district varies.
Each district is responsible for appeals from superior court decisions within the counties that are covered by that district. The jurisdiction of each district covers several counties. You can find your county on the map below to see which appellate district your case will be assigned to:
Three justices from the district in which an appeal is filed are assigned to the panel that will decide the appeal. The parties do not get to choose which justices who decide their cases.
The procedure for bringing an appeal is established by rules that apply statewide and by local rules adopted by the court of appeal within each district. It is helpful to read and understand those rules before following the eleven steps for bringing an appeal in a civil case.
The notice of appeal is one of the most important documents in a California civil appeal. People must ensure that it is filed on time, in the correct format, following the correct procedures, and after an event has triggered the right to appeal.
The notice itself is a fairly simple document to complete, but knowing when, why, and how can be complicated. If you are interested in filing a notice of appeal in California, you should consider hiring a qualified appellate attorney to advise you.
Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.100, subd. (b)(1).Footnote 1
Code Civ. Proc., § 668.5; Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.104.Footnote 2
Code Civ. Proc., § 668.5; Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.104.Footnote 3
Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.104, subd. (d)(1).Footnote 4
Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.104, subd. (d)(2).Footnote 5
Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.104, subd. (a) [“[A] notice of appeal must be filed on or before the earliest of: . . . .”].Footnote 6
Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.104, subd. (a)(1) & (a)(2).Footnote 7
Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.104, subd. (a)(3).Footnote 8
See, e.g., Cal. Rules of Court, rules 8.108 [extending the time to appeal in certain situations], 8.702, subd. (b)(1) [providing a shorter deadline in CEQA cases].Footnote 9
Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.104(b); Hollister Convalescent Hosp., Inc. v. Rico (1975) 15 Cal.3d 660, 668 [“the time for filing an appeal is mandatory and jurisdictional.”].Footnote 10
Code Civ. Proc., § 902 [“Any party aggrieved may appeal in the cases prescribed in this title.”]; Cinel v. Christopher (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 759, 766, fn. 4 [appeals “are heard as a matter of right”].Footnote 11
Code Civ. Proc., § 904 [“An appeal may be taken in a civil action or proceeding as provided in Sections 904.1, 904.2, 904.3, and 904.5.”].Footnote 12
Code Civ. Proc., § 901; Estate of Lagersen (1962) 210 Cal.App.2d 788, 791 [“only aggrieved parties may appeal”].Footnote 13
Marsh v. Mountain Zephyr, Inc. (1996) 43 Cal. App. 4th 289, 295.Footnote 14
Garrison v. Board of Directors (1995) 36 Cal.App.4th 1670, 1676.Footnote 15
County of Alameda v. Carleson (1971) 5 Cal.3d 730, 736 [“It is generally held, however, that only parties of record may appeal . . . .”]. In unusual circumstances, someone who is adversely affected by the outcome of a lawsuit may take action that will permit an appeal from the judgment. (County of Alameda v. Carleson, supra, 5 Cal.3d 730, 736; Marsh v. Mountain Zephyr, Inc. (1996) 43 Cal. App. 4th 289, 295.)Footnote 16
County of Alameda v. Carleson (1971) 5 Cal.3d 730, 737.Footnote 17
Griset v. Fair Political Practices Com. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 688, 696 [“A reviewing court has jurisdiction over a direct appeal only when there is (1) an appealable order or (2) an appealable judgment.”].Footnote 18
Griset v. Fair Political Practices Com. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 688, 696 [“A trial court’s order is appealable when it is made so by statute.”]; Lester v. Lennane (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 536, 557 [“a plurality of our Supreme Court endorsed the view that the right of appeal in California is purely a creature of statute, not a constitutional right.”].Footnote 19
Griset v. Fair Political Practices Com. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 688, 697 [“A judgment is the final determination of the rights of the parties.”]; Code Civ. Proc., § 577 [“A judgment is the final determination of the rights of the parties in an action or proceeding.”].Footnote 20
Morehart v. County of Santa Barbara (1994) 7 Cal.4th 725, 736–743; UAP-Columbus JV 326132 v. Nesbitt (1991) 234 Cal.App.3d 1028, 1035 [“[A] judgment is ‘final,’ so as to be appealable, when no further judicial action by the court is essential to the final determination of the rights of the parties to the action.”].Footnote 21
Code Civ. Proc., § 904.1 [allowing appeals to be taken from judgments, except interlocutory (nonfinal) judgments, and from certain listed orders].Footnote 22
Turner v. Los Angeles Realty Board, Inc. (1965) 233 Cal.App.2d 755, 758 [“With certain statutory exceptions not herein involved, it is the fundamental rule in California, as in most jurisdictions, that no order or judgment may be appealed from unless it finally disposes of the case in the trial court.”].Footnote 23
Hennigan v. Boren (1966) 243 Cal.App.2d 810, 815 [“The right of appeal is wholly statutory and no judgment or order is appealable unless expressly authorized by the Constitution or statute.”].Footnote 24
Knodel v. Knodel (1975) 14 Cal.3d 752, 760.Footnote 25
Griset v. Fair Political Practices Com. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 688, 697.Footnote 26
Sierra Craft, Inc. v. Magnum Enterprises, Inc. (1998) 64 Cal.App.4th 1252, 1256 [“an order denying summary judgment is not an appealable order”].Footnote 27
Caruso v. Snap-Tite, Inc. (1969) 275 Cal.App.2d 211, 214.Footnote 28
Adams v. Superior Court of San Bernardino County (1957) 49 Cal.2d 427, 430 [“An order permitting inspection is not appealable.”]; Dowell v. Superior Court of San Francisco (1956) 47 Cal.2d 483, 486.Footnote 29
Code Civ. Proc., § 906 [“the reviewing court may review the verdict or decision and any intermediate ruling, proceeding, order or decision which involves the merits or necessarily affects the judgment or order appealed from or which substantially affects the rights of a party”].Footnote 30
Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.100(a)(2) [“The notice of appeal must be liberally construed. The notice is sufficient if it identifies the particular judgment or order being appealed.”].Footnote 31
For example, a failure to describe the judgment or order from which the appeal is taken may deprive the appellate court of jurisdiction to consider an appeal from that judgment or order. (Norman I. Krug Real Estate Investments v. Praszker (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 35, 47 [“‘Despite the rule favoring liberal interpretation of notices of appeal, a notice of appeal will not be considered adequate if it completely omits any reference to the judgment being appealed'”], citation omitted.Footnote 32
See Code Civ. Proc., §§ 85–86.1.Footnote 33
See Code Civ. Proc., §§ 85–86.1.Footnote 34
Code Civ. Proc., §§ 116.220, 116.221.Footnote 35
Cal. Rules of Court, rules 8.25, subd. (a)(1), 8.100, subd. (a)(1).Footnote 36
Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.25, subd. (a)(1).Footnote 37
Code Civ. Proc., § 1011; Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.25, subd. (a)(1).Footnote 38
Code Civ. Proc., § 1013a, subd. (1).Footnote 39
Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.25, subd. (a)(2).Footnote 40
Code Civ. Proc., § 1013a, subd. (1).Footnote 41
Code Civ. Proc., § 1013, subd. (b).Footnote 42
Code Civ. Proc., § 1013, subd. (a).Footnote 43
Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.25, subd. (a)(2).Footnote 44
Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.100, subd. (a)(1).Footnote 45
Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.100, subd. (b)(1).Footnote 46
Code Civ. Proc., § 916, subd. (a); In re Marriage of Varner (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 932, 936 [“A timely notice of appeal suspends the trial court’s jurisdiction over the cause and vests jurisdiction in the appellate court.”].Footnote 47
Code Civ. Proc., §§ 904.1, 904.2.Footnote 48
Cal. Const., art. VI, § 3; Jud. Council of Cal., Fact Sheet: California Judicial Branch (Jan. 2015).Footnote 49
Code Civ. Proc., § 904.2 [“An appeal of a ruling by a superior court judge or other judicial officer in a limited civil case is to the appellate division of the superior court.”]; Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.820; Cal. Const., art. VI, § 4 [“In each superior court there is an appellate division. The Chief Justice shall assign judges to the appellate division for specified terms pursuant to rules, not inconsistent with statute, adopted by the Judicial Council to promote the independence of the appellate division.”].Footnote 50
Code Civ. Proc., § 904.1, subd. (a) [“An appeal, other than in a limited civil case, is to the court of appeal.”].Footnote 51
Gov. Code, § 69100.Footnote 52