The prevailing party at trial can usually execute a court judgment immediately or otherwise act in accordance with it. But a stay will suspend this, pending appeal of the matter. Although stays are sometimes granted while the appeal works its way through the court, they are not always guaranteed. Nor are they always necessary. At Gusdorff Law, our appellate attorneys advise clients on whether they should seek a stay of the trial court judgment while their case is before the Court of Appeal. If so, we immediately get to work to ask for one.
Why a Stay Might be Necessary
The primary purpose of a stay is to preserve the status quo between the parties. This keeps the issue of contention ripe for the courts so they can adjudicate it. In other words, the stay helps ensure that any decision rendered by the appellate court will actually make a difference.
Another basis for a stay is demonstrating irreparable harm in its absence. The appellant must show he or she will lose the benefits of appeal if a stay isn’t first ordered. Take, for instance, a land use issue that invokes claims of environmental damage. The plaintiff sues to stop the development of the land by arguing it will hurt the environment. If the plaintiff loses at trial, the defendant will presumably develop the land immediately. Without a stay, the plaintiff might argue, the environment would be irreparably harmed negating the benefit of an appellate win.
A stay lifts the obligation for the losing party to immediately comply with the judgment. However, neither side should assume a stay will automatically be granted. In most cases, it won’t.
How to Obtain a Stay
Some trial court decisions are automatically stayed upon filing the appeal. For instance, in California, declaratory judgments are often stayed automatically. These decisions don’t require a payment of money or land between parties. A party should not assume it will receive an automatic stay, however. Obtaining one may require counsel to take specific action in addition to filing the notice of appeal.
The party against whom judgment was entered can file a writ of supersedeas to stay enforcement of the judgment. Once filed, the writ has to be served on the other parties in the matter.
The writ must explain the necessity of the stay and include a memorandum. An appellant uses the memorandum to cite the authority and arguments in support of the writ. The argument must be compelling enough to sway the appellate judges.
However, two circumstances must be satisfied before filing the writ of supersedeas:
- The appeal must be pending. This means the notice of appeal has to be timely filed.
- The appellant must exhaust all possible options at the trial court. There are some tools that may be available at the trial level to halt immediate enforcement. If these are available, the appellant must attempt to use them first. If the appellant is not successful, a stay may then be sought.
The appellate court has broad authority to grant or reject a writ of supersedeas. If a stay is issued, the appellate court must notify the trial court.
Turn To Us For Comprehensive Appellate Advocacy
Appeals sometimes require more than simply asking that a trial court decision be overturned. If irreparable harm can occur, or the status quo is lost, you may need a stay. Gusdorff Law is here to explain your appellate options and whether a stay should be requested. Give us a call to learn more.