Article

JurisdictionUtah,United States
CitationVol. 35 No. 5 Pg. 34
Pages34
Publication year2022
Article
No. Vol. 35 No. 5 Pg. 34
Utah Bar Journal
October, 2022

Article

A Practitioner’s Guide to the Utah Court of Appeals: Jurisdiction, Procedure, and Outcome

by Carol Funk

When considering a challenge to a judicial or administrative ruling, it is essential to understand the types of review available in the Utah Court of Appeals. It is also critical to understand how to initiate and navigate proceedings therein, the forms of relief that may be sought, and how to effectively pursue them. When possible, it is also useful to understand how frequently particular types of relief are granted.

This critical information is set forth below in a two-part guide to the Court of Appeals. Part one, which appeared in the previous edition of the Utah Bar Journal, provided background information regarding the Court of Appeals’ jurisdiction and docket, outlined how to initiate matters in that Court, and identified the steps by which matters move through the initial phase of adjudication. This part two addresses the remainder of the adjudicatory process – from receipt of the record and submission of full briefing through issuance of an opinion, post-opinion petitions, and remand.

This guide is based on the Utah Code; the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure; the Utah Rules of Appellate Procedure; the Utah State Courts Guide to Appealing a Case; Utah Supreme Court and Court of Appeals opinions; the experience of the author, where relevant; and a review of all matters (nearly 6,000) filed in the Utah Supreme Court and Utah Court of Appeals between January 1, 2016, and October 13, 2021 (the review period). Given the magnitude of that undertaking, the results set forth below are intended to provide general trends and highly informative approximations of the types of matters at issue and actions taken therein, as indicated on the Utah appellate courts’ docket.

STEP-BY-STEP PROCESS: RECORD AND BRIEFING

After all steps in the initial phase of adjudication are complete, matters still pending in the Utah Court of Appeals will proceed toward resolution by written opinion of a three-judge panel. That process begins with receipt of the record, assignment of a briefing schedule, and submission of full briefing. The Utah Court of Appeals’ procedures and the parties’ responsibilities with respect thereto are set forth below, including the substantive standards a party must satisfy when briefing a challenge in the state’s appellate courts.

Receipt of the Record

Generally, the first step toward full briefing is for the Utah Court of Appeals to call for the record, which will include all papers, exhibits, and transcripts filed in the court or agency proceeding. See Utah R. App. P. 11(a), 11(d), 57(a). An appellant or petitioner usually need not take any steps to prepare the record, other than to request and pay for transcripts of proceedings they would like the record to include.

However, large or heavy documents and any exhibits other than documents, photographs, or binders are not automatically included in the record. If a party intends to rely on such materials in its arguments before the Utah Court of Appeals, the “party must make advance arrangements with the clerks for the transportation and receipt” of those items. Id. R. 12(b)(4).

A court or agency has twenty days to transmit the record once the Utah Court of Appeals has requested it. See id. R. 12(b), 57(b). Sometimes, however, the court or agency does not transmit the record within the allotted time. If the record is not received within the initial twenty-day window, the Utah Court of Appeals will call for the record a second time. This reminder, when needed, is usually sufficient, and the court or agency will then transmit the record during the second twenty-day window.

When the proceeding involves appeal of an interlocutory order, the Utah Court of Appeals may not call for the record. See Utah R. App. P. 5(j). The appealing party will instead prepare a paginated appendix of documents, selected from the record, to be filed with the party’s principal brief. Id.

Assignment of a Briefing Schedule

When the record is received, the Utah Court of Appeals will promptly notify the parties that the record has been filed, and the court will also issue the briefing schedule. Utah R. App. P. 13.

The appellant will have forty days from the date of the notice to submit its opening brief; the appellee will have thirty days from the date the appellant’s principal brief is filed to submit its brief; and the appellant will have thirty days from the date the appellee’s brief is filed to submit a reply brief. Id. R. 26(a).

The parties may stipulate to extend each of these deadlines by up to thirty days. Id. Requests for further extensions of time are disfavored but may be granted upon a showing of good cause. Id. R. 22(b).

When the proceeding involves a cross-appeal, the appellant will file its opening brief; the cross-appellant will then file its opening brief, addressing the appellant’s arguments and presenting the issue(s) raised on cross-appeal; the appellant may then file a reply brief, and if the appellant does so, the cross-appellant may then also file a reply brief, addressing any issues raised in response to the cross-appeal. Utah R. App. P. 24A.

Submission of Full Briefing – Form and Length

Rules 24 and 27 of the Utah Rules of Appellate Procedure set out the standards applicable to principal and reply briefs. These rules specify the content each brief should present, the order in which that content should appear, and the documents that should be submitted with the briefs as part of an addendum. Utah R. App. P. 24(a), 24(b), 27.

In terms of length, each party’s principal brief is capped at thirty pages or 14,000 words. Id. R. 24(g). A reply brief, if filed, may not exceed fifteen pages or 7,000 words. Id. The word and page limits are more generous in cases involving cross-appeals, id. R. 24A(g), and in proceedings addressing the legality of a death sentence, id. R. 24(g).

The word limits yield significantly longer briefs than the page limits. A party wishing to maximize the space permitted should abide by the word limit, not the page limit, when filing its brief.

Requests to submit an overlength brief are disfavored but may be granted for good cause. Id. R. 24(h). In addition, a party may join in or adopt by reference any part of a brief submitted by another party. Id. R. 24(c).

Submission of Full Briefing - Substance

Standards governing the substance of the parties’ briefing appear in the Utah Rules of Appellate Procedure and in decisions of the state’s appellate courts. When navigating proceedings in the Utah Court of Appeals, practitioners should be familiar with each content-based standard set forth below.

Adequate Briefing

Briefing in the Utah Court of Appeals “must explain, with reasoned analysis supported by citations to legal authority and the record, why the party should prevail.” Utah R. App. P. 24(a)(8). In other words, a party must (1) identify the claim or error at issue; (2) identify and apply the applicable legal standard, with citation to supporting authority; (3) cite pages in the record where relevant evidence may be found; (4) cite pages in the record where the issue was raised and argued; and (5) cite pages in the record where any ruling on the matter was rendered.

An argument that fails to meet this standard may be dismissed as inadequately briefed. Accordingly, a party’s brief must do more than generally allege a claim or error; it must provide a fully formed legal argument. Challenging an action as “ unconstitutional,” for example, does not adequately brief a constitutional violation. Amundsen v. Univ. of Utah, 2019 UT 49, ¶ 47, 448 P.3d 1224. “[A] party must identify the [constitutional] provision allegedly infringed and develop an argument as to how that provision has been violated.” Id.

As a matter of fairness, an appellate court will not fill in gaps...

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