FEATURE APPELLATE LAW
PAIGE MACKEY MURRAY, J.
This article outlines the key procedural requirements for appealing municipal court, county court, and magistrate rulings, with a focus on the statutes and rules that govern these appeals.
Not every appeal is before the highest court in the land, nor does every appeal start with a judgment entered by a district court judge. Many appeals are of decisions from a municipal judge, a county court judge, or a magistrate. While these appeals are usually less costly, complex, and time-consuming than appeals to higher courts, they require an understanding of complex statutory and rule frameworks. Being able to navigate these requirements and provide appellate services at the lower court level can be a meaningful means of achieving justice for clients and ensuring that any issues arising from municipal court, county court, or magistrate decisions are properly preserved for any further appeals to the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court.
Appeals of County Court Decisions
In general, the Colorado Appellate Rules do not apply to appeals in courts other than the Colorado Court of Appeals and Colorado Supreme Court.1 CRS § 13-6-310 applies to all county court appeals, although the procedures vary for civil and criminal appeals. The procedures for appealing a civil ruling from county court are governed by County Court Civil Procedure Rule (Colo. R. Cnty. Ct. Civ. P.) 411 and CRS § 13-6-311. Criminal appeals from county court are governed by Crim. P. 37 and CRS § 16-2-114.
Both civil and criminal appeals of county court decisions are brought in the district court for the judicial district in which the county court entering the judgment is located.2 Counsel should refer to the local rules for the county from which they wish to appeal for any additional procedural requirements.3
County Court Civil Appeals
A party wishing to appeal a county court civil judgment must file a notice of appeal in the county court within 14 days after the entry of judgment.4 Within that 14 days the appellant must also file an appeal bond with the clerk of the county court.5 Within 35 days of the fling of the notice of appeal in county court, the appellant must docket the case in the district court and pay the docket fee.6 An extension of time for fling the transcript will not change the deadline for docketing the case in the district court.7 Failure to timely docket the case in the district court could deprive that court of jurisdiction over the appeal.8 It is unclear whether in a civil case the fling of the notice of appeal in the county court is jurisdictional.9
Colo. R. Cnty. Ct. Civ. P. 411 references a mandatory notice of appeal in Form 4.10 Form 4 is fairly rudimentary and does not include a list of issues to be raised on appeal. However, the particular county in which the appeal will be filed may require additional information.
Once the appellant has paid any required record fee, the county court clerk prepares the record, including any transcripts designated by the parties.13 The clerk must notify the parties in writing of the completion of the record, at which point the parties have 14 days to file any objections.14 If no objections are received, the clerk will certify the record.15 If there are objections, the county court will hold a hearing and resolve the issues, after which the record will be certified.16
In a civil case, it is not necessary to file a motion for new trial in the county court as a condition of appeal.17 If a motion for new trial is filed within 14 days, the time for appeal is extended until 14 days after disposition of the motion.18 However, in that case, only matters raised in the motion for new trial will be considered in the appeal.19
Stays and Bonds
A stay of the judgment is automatic once the notice of appeal and designation of record are filed, the appeal bonds are paid, and any advance fee required to prepare the record is paid.20 When the appeal is by the plaintiff, the bond is intended to pay the costs of the appeal and the judgment on any counterclaims.21 If the appeal is by the defendant, the bond is intended to pay the costs and any judgment if the appealing party is unsuccessful in the appeal.22
The bond is a precondition to proceeding with the appeal.23 However, an indigent party is not required to post a judgment bond as a precondition to proceeding with an appeal of an adverse money judgment from county court to district court.24 Under such circumstances, however, the execution of the judgment will not be stayed during the pendency of the appeal, and the appellant assumes the risk that the judgment creditor-appellee will execute the judgment.
opening brief in a civil appeal in district court is due 21
days after the fling of the record, and the answer brief is
due 21 days after service of the opening brief. There is
n o provision for a reply brief.
Disposition of the Appeal
On appeal of civil county court decisions, a district court may affirm, reverse, remand, or modify the judgment, and in its discretion may remand the case for a new trial with instructions or direct that the case be tried de novo before the district court.29 However, the district court may hold a de novo trial only if the record of the proceedings in the county court has been lost or destroyed or cannot be produced for a valid reason, or if a party has shown that there is new and material evidence that was unknown and undiscoverable at the time of the county court trial and that might affect the outcome if presented de novo in the district court.30
County Court Criminal Appeals
In criminal proceedings, the district attorney may appeal a question of law decided by a county court, and the defendant may appeal a judgment of the county court.
To appeal a criminal case from the county court, the appellant must file a notice of appeal in the county court within 35 days after the entry of judgment or the denial of post-trial motions, whichever is later.32 The appellant must also, within the same 35 days, post the advance costs required by the county court for preparation of the record, serve a notice of the appeal upon the appellee, docket the appeal in the district court, and pay the district court docket fee.33
Unlike the notice of appeal in a civil case, the notice in a criminal case must state with particularity the alleged errors of the county court or other grounds relied upon for the appeal.34 Failure to provide at least a minimal description of the issues on appeal could potentially preclude review of those issues in the district court.35
The notice of appeal also must include a stipulation or designation of the evidence and other proceedings the appellant desires to have included in the record certified to the district court.36 And if the appellant intends to argue sufficiency of the evidence, the appellant must designate a transcript of all relevant evidence.
In a criminal case, the docketing of the appeal in the district court is a jurisdictional requirement, although the fling of the notice of appeal in the county court is not.38
After being served the notice of appeal and designation of record, the appellee has 14 days to designate any additional parts of the record.39 The appellant must post the advance cost of preparing the additional record within seven days after service of the designation or the appeal will be dismissed.40 If the district court finds that the additional record was not necessary, it is required to order the appellee to reimburse the appellant for the cost advanced, regardless of the outcome of the appeal.41 If for any reason an adequate record cannot be certified to the district court, the case must be tried de novo in the district court.42
A criminal defendant is not required to file a motion for new trial before appealing to the district court, and if any such motion is filed it will not limit the issues that may be raised on appeal.43 However, if the court directs a party to file a motion for a new trial on a specific issue, the party may not appeal on that issue if he or she fails to file the motion.44
Stays and Bonds
Unlike in a civil appeal, a stay of execution is not automatic in a criminal appeal from a county court, but if a stay is requested before an appeal is docketed, it generally must be granted.45 There is an exception, however, for a sentence of probation, for which the court has discretion under the probation statutes to determine whether...