When Is An Appellate Decision Final In California State And Federal Courts?

Finality is a word that means something different to each party in an appellate case. It can mean permanent relief for the prevailing party or the start of the next phase for the losing party. Whether your state or federal appellate decision went the way you wanted, you need to understand the rules surrounding appellate decision finality. California’s state and federal court systems have different standards for what makes a decision final. Gusdorff Law is here to explain the basics of finality for both state and federal appeals.

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Finality in California (state) Court of Appeal cases

California’s Rules of Court have much to say on the issue of finality. Regarding civil appeals, a Court of Appeal decision will usually be final 30 days after filing. This includes an order to dismiss an appeal involuntarily. However, whether a Court of Appeal decision is published will affect this 30-day finality rule. If a decision is certified for publication, the 30 days will run from the filing date of the order for publication.

Two types of Court of Appeal decisions are final upon filing (without the 30-day wait):

  • The denial of a petition for writ of supersedeas
  • The dismissal of an appeal on request or stipulation

Why finality matters

A reviewing court may order a rehearing of the Court of Appeal decision, provided the decision is not final. The order for rehearing must be filed before the date the decision becomes final. Finality also opens the door to appealing a Court of Appeal decision to the California Supreme Court. A dissatisfied party requests that the Supreme Court review a Court of Appeal decision by filing a petition. The petition for review must be served and filed within 10 days after the Court of Appeal decision is final.

Finality in Ninth Circuit (federal) Court of Appeals

In the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, finality is treated somewhat differently. The court uses the term “entry of judgment” to indicate when a decision is final. Entry of a judgment takes place when it is noted on the court docket.

The clerk of court must prepare, sign, and enter the judgment as follows:

  • After receiving the court’s opinion. However, if settlement of the judgment’s form is required, then judgment is entered after final settlement.
  • If a judgment is rendered without an opinion, entry occurs as the court instructs

The entry of judgment affects both the timing for a rehearing request and appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Within 14 days of the entry of judgment, an unhappy party should file a petition for rehearing. Meanwhile, parties have 90 days after entry of judgment to file a petition for writ of certiorari. This is the method by which a party can ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision.

Perhaps the greatest takeaway of these finality rules is that they affect what happens after the appellate case. Either a rehearing or appeal to a higher court may be possible. Or the decision could simply become final, with no further action taken. As always, observance of key deadlines is essential to preserve one’s legal rights after a decision becomes final. If you have questions about California or federal appellate matters, let Gusdorff Law know. We can explain the procedures involved and begin working on your appeal today.