Interlocutory appeals

Interlocutory appeal

An interlocutory appeal, in the law of civil procedure is an appeal of a ruling by a trial court that is made before the trial itself has concluded. Most jurisdictions generally prohibit such appeals, requiring parties to wait until the trial has concluded before they challenge any of the decisions made by the judge during that trial. However, many jurisdictions make an exception for decisions that are particularly prejudicial to the rights of one of the parties. For example, if a party is asserting some form of immunity from suit, or is claiming that the court completely lacks personal jurisdiction over them, then it is recognized that being forced to wait for the conclusion of the trial would violate their right not to be subjected to a trial at all.

The Supreme Court of the United States delineated the test for the availability of interlocutory appeals, called the collateral order doctrine, for United States federal courts in the case of Lauro Lines s.r.l. v. Chasser et al., 490 U.S. 495 (1989), holding that under the relevant statute such an appeal would be permitted only if:

  1. the outcome of the case would be conclusively determined by the issue;
  2. the matter appealed was collateral to the merits; and,
  3. the matter was effectively unreviewable if immediate appeal were not allowed.

The test was originated by the United States Supreme Court in Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corp., 337 U.S. 541 (1949), where it was applied to a requirement of bond to be posted in certain stockholders derivative actions by plaintiffs, in anticipation of being liable for defendant's attorney's fees. Since the substantial deterrent effect of the statute would be meaningless if not enforceable at the outset of litigation, but did not touch on the merits of plaintiff's claim, the Court allowed interlocutory appeal from the trial court's decision. 337 U.S. at 546-47. The doctrine was restricted in Digital Equipment Corp. v. Desktop Direct Inc., 511 U.S. 863 (1994), which added an explicit importance criterion to the test for interlocutory appeals, holding that relief on a claim of immunity from suit because of a previous settlement agreement could not come through interlocutory appeal. The Supreme Court stated that the only matters of sufficient importance to merit a collateral appeal were "those originating in the Constitution or statutes". 511 U.S. at 879.

Several U.S. statutes directly confer the right to interlocutory appeals, including appeals from orders denying arbitration, , and some judicial actions against the debtor upon filing bankruptcy proceedings, (a). There is a major United States Circuit Court of Appeals split as to whether a stay of proceedings should issue in the District Court while interlocutory appeals on the arbitrability of disputes are decided. Compare Bradford-Scott Data Corp., Inc. v. Physician Computer Network, 128 F.3d 504 (7th Cir. 1997), and Britton v. Co-op Banking Group, 916 F.2d 1405 (9th Cir. 1990). An interlocutory appeal under the collateral order doctrine usually merits a stay of proceedings while the appeal is being decided. Currently, the Second and Ninth Circuits have refused to stay proceedings in the district court while an arbitration issue is pending [See, Motorola Credit Corp. v. Uzan, 388, F.3d 39, 53-4 (2d Cir. 2004; Britton v. Co-Op Banking Group, 916 F.2d 1405, 1412 (9th Cir. 1990)]. The Seventh, Tenth and Eleventh Circuit courts conversely hold that a non-frivolous appeal warrants a stay of proceedings. See, Bradford-Scott Data Corp. v. Physician Computer Network, Inc., 128 F.3d, 504, 506 (7th Cir. 1997); Blinco v. Green Tree Servicing, LLC, 366 F.3d 1249, 1251-2 (11th Cir. 2004); McCauley et al. v. Halliburton Energy Services, Inc., (citation unavailable, but see:

Various interlocutory appeals can be found under the Civil Practice Remedies Code section 51.014. This section, along with a writ of mandamus are the only exceptions to filing an appeal only after the final judgment has been given.

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