Judges and jurors have a tough job. Both are called upon to sift through a great deal of testimony and evidence and then issue potentially life-changing decisions. However, sometimes the judge or jury simply makes the wrong decision. For those of you who find yourself on the wrong side of a circuit court’s decision, the law provides you options to contest the ruling and perhaps get a second chance to obtain a ruling in your favor. The following are three common options to contest a trial court’s ruling; but first, a brief explanation about the structure of the judicial system is in order.
There are three levels of court in the Wisconsin court system. First, there are circuit courts which are organized by county. Circuit court is where most cases are first heard—civil or criminal. Second, there is the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. The court of appeals is broken down into four districts across the state. The court of appeals reviews the decisions of the circuit courts. Finally, there is the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The supreme court is the final authority on Wisconsin law. In most instances, the Supreme Court reviews decisions from the Court of Appeals. More information on the Wisconsin court system can be found here: https://www.wicourts.gov/courts/overview/overview.htm
Options to Contest a Ruling
Option 1 – Appeal
An appeal is a claim of error made to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. There are slight variations as to the nature of an appeal, but, for most issues, citizens are entitled to appeal “as of right.” “Final orders or judgements of the circuit court may be appealed as of right.” Wis. Stat. § 802.03(1). A final order or judgment is essentially the circuit court’s ruling, which you believe is incorrect. Most often, a person has forty-five (45) days to initiate an appeal, but under certain circumstances, a person may have up to ninety (90) days to appeal. If you are thinking about making an appeal, you should contact your attorney to determine your time limit for appealing—you may lose your right to appeal if you miss the deadline.
Option 2 – Motion for Reconsideration
When you make a motion to reconsider, you are asking the same circuit court to reconsider the evidence and applicable law, and then decide whether a new ruling is appropriate. Under Wis. Stat. § 805.17(3), a motion for reconsideration must be made “no later than twenty (20) days after entry of judgment.” If you are thinking that asking the circuit court to change its mind is pointless, there is no clear answer to indicate whether you are correct. Pursuing a motion for reconsideration is a tactical choice that your attorney may deem appropriate for several reasons. However, you should not automatically rule out a motion for reconsideration; they can, and do, work. Even if you decide to pursue reconsideration, you still have the option to appeal after the court makes it decision on the motion. The deadlines for initiating an appeal after a motion for reconsideration can vary, and you should discuss these deadlines with your attorney.
Option 3 – Motion For A New Trial
Sometimes, you can ask the circuit court for a “do-over.” Under Wis. Stat. § 805.15, a party may move to set aside a verdict and seek a new trial for the following reasons:
There were errors in the trial;
The verdict was contrary to law or to the weight of evidence;
Damages were inadequate or excessive;
There is newly-discovered evidence; or
The interest of justice so requires.
Asking for a new trial may sound ideal when compared to the other options. However, there are many elements to consider when pursing this motion, chiefly the significant expense. If you wish to file a motion for a new trial, you must initiate that motion within twenty (20) days after the verdict is rendered. Wis. Stat. § 805.16. As always, you should discuss this option with your attorney.
There are many things to think about when you are not happy with the outcome of your trial. The first choice of whether to challenge the ruling is yours alone. The remainder of considerations, however, can quickly become confusing and may impact your chances of success depending on which option you choose. If you truly are not happy with the outcome of your trial, take the time to contact an attorney. Many attorneys are happy to discuss options with you at no cost. Our attorneys at Levine Eisberner LLC are experienced in representing clients in any of the three options listed above. We are happy to discuss your case and present you options in moving forward.