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Appellate Attorney: Practice & Briefs

Generally, in Missouri, a party may appeal from a judgment or order by filing with the trial court a notice of appeal within 10 days after the judgment/order becomes final.  A “final judgment” is not as simple as it seems. A judgment is rendered when a writing signed by a judge and denominated “judgment” or “decree” is filed. A final judgment is one that disposes of all issues, claims and parties. In the absence of a final judgment, the appeal is premature.

In civil cases, the judgment becomes final 30 days after the entry of the judgment if no timely motion for new trial is filed. If a timely motion for new trial is filed, the judgment becomes final at the expiration of 90 days after the filing of the motion or, if such motion is passed on at an earlier date, at the later of: 1) 30 days after the entry of judgment; or 2) disposition of the motion.

As such, after this deadline ends in a civil case, the party seeking appellate review has ten days to file the notice of appeal. This is where things get interesting. The party that filed the notice of the appeal becomes the Appellant and must almost always file an Appellant’s Brief that alleges one or more points of error in the trial court’s final judgment that form the basis for the appeal.  In addition to this particularity regarding the point relied on, the Brief must contain, among other things, a jurisdictional statement, statement of facts, table of contents, and statement of authorities. Substantial compliance with the procedural rules pertaining to the brief is required, or else the brief — and appeal — will be dismissed all together.

Based on the strict deadlines, and the complicated nature of appeals, it is extremely important to use an attorney in any appeal. Pro se parties (i.e., those without an attorney) are treated equally by judges in appeals. See Brown v. Ameristar Casino Kansas City, Inc., 211 S.W.3d 145, 146 (Mo.App.W.D.2007) (“Although we are mindful of the difficulties that a party appearing pro se encounters in complying with the rules of procedure, we must require pro se appellants to comply with these rules. We must not grant a pro se appellant preferential treatment.”)

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