How Violating Court Orders May Affect Your Appeal

Valid court orders have to be followed – period. A party can dislike and disagree with an order. And there are various methods of relief that may be available. But if all avenues fail, the parties are ultimately bound by the trial court’s order.

In the event a party decides to violate that order, its ability to appeal could be jeopardized. This is where the disentitlement doctrine comes in. It’s a rule that all parties, especially appellants, should understand. Gusdorff Law provides some guidance to this critical rule and how violating court orders may affect your appeal.

Gusdorff Law specializes in state and federal appellate litigation throughout California. We can answer questions you have about following the trial court’s order and its effect on your appeal.

What Is Disentitlement?

The disentitlement doctrine is rather simple. Let’s say a party either lost at trial or received an order whose terms they disagree with. There are valid means to challenge that order, including writs and motions for reconsideration. If all of those fail, the disgruntled party may then decide to appeal.

But the appeal could be in trouble if the appellant disobeyed the order. Appellate courts are given discretion to stay or dismiss the appeal of a disobedient party. This power is known as the disentitlement doctrine.

A party cannot seek the aid of appellate courts while violating orders of the state’s courts. In other words, if you violate a court order, don’t expect assistance from the higher courts. Appellants should be especially mindful of this rule and what the Court of Appeal may do, especially because a formal adjudication of contempt of court is not even required.

The point of using this doctrine is not to punish the offending party. Rather, it is an exercise of the court’s inherent power to maintain its own integrity. If a party is “harboring no intention of complying with an unfavorable trial court ruling,” the court’s authority is jeopardized. The court can throw out the appeal if it’s clear an appellant will only obey an order with which it agrees.

Examples of When the Disentitlement Doctrine May Be Employed

An appellant in any type of California civil action can be subject to the disentitlement doctrine. The message from the Court of Appeal and the court system in general is clear: obey court orders. Appellants are urged to consult with their attorneys if they don’t understand the terms of an order.

These are some specific examples of instances in which this doctrine has been used to stay or dismiss an appeal:

  • Failure to comply with an order compelling responses to post judgment discovery
  • Repeated violations of post judgment orders enjoining a party from engaging in certain actions
  • Ignoring available post judgment remedies and conveying property in violation of an order
  • Repeatedly disobeying a court order, assailing it as “invalid,” and refusing to challenge the order using appropriate means
  • Refusing to obtain an appeal bond when required to do so

Proper Conduct After the Trial Is Key

In many of these and other disentitlement matters, the Court of Appeal found a pattern of disobeying court orders. But appellants should not assumethat only repeated violations may result in their appeal being dismissed. A violation of just one court order could suffice.

Additionally, an appellant should be aware that violations of other court orders, in unrelated matters, could cause trouble. If there is a broader pattern of disobeying courts in other matters, the Court of Appeal could utilize the doctrine.

For these reasons, how a party conducts itself after trial and pending appeal is critical. Though you may not like the order, don’t risk your appeal by simply ignoring it. And ask your lawyer if you’re unsure what to do.

Guiding Your Appeal From Start to Finish

At Gusdorff Law, we help appellants navigate the complex rules of appellate procedure. We can answer questions you have about following the trial court’s order and its effect on your appeal. We can also respond to attempts to use the disentitlement doctrine against you. To learn more about our services, call today.

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