Table of Contents
What is the South Carolina Court of Appeals?
Where is the South Carolina Court of Appeals?
What orders may be appealed to the Court of Appeals?
Do I need a lawyer?
When should I serve and file my Notice of Appeal?
How do I serve and file a Notice of Appeal?
What must the Notice of Appeal contain?
What does it cost to file a Notice of Appeal?
Why do I need to order transcripts?
What is the Appellant's Initial Brief and Designation of Matter?
What is the Respondent's Initial Brief and Designation of Matter?
What is the Record on Appeal?
What are the Final Briefs?
What is meant by service and filing?
When will the Court of Appeals hear my case?
When will the Court of Appeals decide my case?
What can I do if I lose on appeal?
These questions and answers are designed in part to help non-lawyers prepare an appeal to the South Carolina Court of Appeals. This material is not legal advice and must not be cited as legal authority. The information here does not replace the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules, but you should use it together with a close reading of the Rules to complete your appeal.
The Appellate Court Rules are always subject to revision and amendment. Therefore, you should consult the current version of the Rules. You may call the Court of Appeals Clerk's Office if you have a specific procedural question about how to prepare or file your papers with the Court. Although the staff will try to help answer your procedural questions, you must remember employees of the Court of Appeals are not permitted to give legal advice or make specific recommendations to you on how you should pursue your claims on appeal or respond to an appeal.
Appeal. A review by the Court of Appeals of what happened in the court below to determine whether any mistakes occurred and, if so, whether the party who filed the appeal is entitled to have the decision of the court below reversed.
Appellant. A party who appeals from the lower court’s decision.
Respondent. A party against whom an appeal is taken and who responds to that appeal.
Brief. A written statement that explains the arguments of a party to an appeal.
Court en banc. The Court of Appeals en banc consists of all qualified and available members of the Court, which usually means all nine judges.
Cross-appeal. An appeal filed by the respondent, which usually is combined for processing, hearing, and decision with the appellant's appeal.
Designation of Matter. A list of the transcripts, documents, and exhibits that a party wishes to have included in the Record on Appeal. Only a list identifying each item should be submitted at the Designation of Matter stage. The documents themselves should not be submitted at the Designation of Matter stage.
Interlocutory appeal. An appeal that is filed before the lower court enters its final order on the entire case.
Interlocutory order. An order that addresses some intermediate matter and is issued before the lower court's final order.
Jurisdiction. Authority or power of a court to hear a certain kind of case.
– Appellate jurisdiction refers to the Court of Appeals’ authority to review and revise a lower court's decision by way of direct appeal.
– Original jurisdiction refers to the authority of a court to hear and decide a matter before any other court has reviewed it.
Motion. A written application requesting the Court to make a specific ruling or order. The requirements for a motion are set out in Rule 240.
Petition. A written application requesting the Court to make a specific ruling or order. There is no practical difference between a petition and a motion. The requirements for a petition are set out in Rule 240.
Pro se. A person who does not retain a lawyer and appears on his or her own behalf before the Court.
Transcript. A word-for-word typescript of the lower court proceedings.
Writ. An extraordinary remedy that may be issued by the Court of Appeals if the Court of Appeals has a pending appeal in the case. The Court of Appeals has no power to issue writs unless there is an appeal pending in the Court. Although there are several different types of writs, they usually are issued to prohibit a trial court from exceeding its jurisdiction or to compel a trial court to perform a mandatory duty. In general, a writ may be issued only when the party requesting the writ does not have any other alternative legal remedy.
The South Carolina Court of Appeals is an intermediate appellate court. It consists of nine judges, including a Chief Judge. The Court sits in panels of three judges to decide most cases.
An appeal is not a new trial. Parties before the Court of Appeals will not be permitted to conduct discovery, call witnesses, or offer any evidence that was not presented first to the court below. The Court decides appeals strictly on the basis of the record that existed in the court below and the written briefs that are filed by the parties. The Court also may hear oral argument by the parties.
The Court and its Clerk’s office are in the Calhoun State Office Building, 1015 Sumter Street, Columbia, South Carolina 29201. For correspondence and filing, you may write to Post Office Box 11629, Columbia, SC 29211. Large packages should be sent to the Sumter Street address. The telephone number is (803) 734-1890.
It is the policy of the Court that all communication with the Court of Appeals is to be conducted through the Clerk's Office. No party should contact a judge directly about any case.
Generally, final orders of the family and circuit courts are appealable to the Court of Appeals. This description does not nearly exhaust the possibilities, however. In many cases, the question of the appealability of an order is a complex legal issue. No answer to this question can be both succinct and complete. The rules, statutes and case law must be carefully consulted to determine appealability.
Individuals may appear before the Court of Appeals without a lawyer. Corporations are required to have a South Carolina lawyer represent them.
Although an individual is not required to have a lawyer, most people find that having a lawyer on appeal is helpful to them. If you would like the assistance of a lawyer, you may be able to obtain legal assistance by calling The South Carolina Bar. If you pursue your appeal without the assistance of a lawyer, you nevertheless are required to comply with the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules. You may find it helpful to refer to various legal resources in preparing motions and briefs. These resources include the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules, the South Carolina Code of Laws, the case law of South Carolina as published in the Southeastern Reporter and the South Carolina Reports, and South Carolina Jurisprudence. These resources are available at various libraries throughout the State, including some libraries in county courthouses.
For Circuit Court orders and judgments of the Court of Common Pleas, the Notice of Appeal must be served on all respondents within 30 days of receipt of written notice of the entry of the judgment or the order. It must be filed within ten days thereafter.
For the Court of General Sessions division of the Circuit Court, the Notice of Appeal must be served within 10 days of sentencing, if the appeal is from a conviction or revocation of probation. Notice of Appeal from other orders must be served within ten days of receipt of written notice of the entry of judgment.
From Family Court the time for service is 30 days in domestic relations actions and ten days in juvenile actions.
You must consult Rule 203 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules for details on this point. The time for serving the Notice of Appeal cannot be extended by the Court. If you miss your deadline, you cannot appeal.
Rule 262 defines filing and service. These may be accomplished by direct delivery or by mailing with the United States Postal Service. When the USPS is used, service and filing of the notice of appeal are complete upon mailing. Delivery to a private carrier, such as U.P.S. or Federal Express, does not constitute service or filing. See What is meant by service and filing?
The form and contents of the Notice of Appeal are set out in Rule 203. Samples are provided in Form 1, Form 2, Form 3, Form 4, and Form 5. Reference to these two sources will give you all the guidance you need to prepare a Notice of Appeal, with one exception: When listing a lawyer’s name on any document in the Court of Appeals, you should also list the firm name for that lawyer.
When filing any document in the Court of Appeals, you must see that its form complies with the requirements of Rule 267 regarding appearance, binding and covers.
The filing fee is $100.00. There is no filing fee for criminal appeals or appeals by the State of South Carolina or its departments or agencies. The Court of Appeals will consider motions to proceed without the payment of fees, but the circumstances in which this motion is granted are very limited. Be aware of Rule 222 which allows the winning party in an appeal to receive costs from the losing party.
The transcript shows what evidence and arguments were put before the lower court. This information is required for the Court’s review of the appeal. In some cases, a transcript is not required, because all necessary information appears in court papers.
Rule 207 requires the appellant to order the lower court transcript from the court reporter when a transcript is required for the appeal. Generally, this must be done within ten days of serving the notice of appeal in civil cases and within 30 days of serving the notice in criminal cases. Refer to Rule 207 for exact details.
The transcript referred to in this rule is the circuit court transcript, not the transcript from proceedings before a magistrate, municipal judge, probate judge, or the like.
This transcript must be ordered from the circuit court reporter. Do not attempt to order it from the Court of Appeals, from the Supreme Court, from the lower court judge, from the Circuit Court Clerk, or from the Office of Court Administration. If you do not know the name of the court reporter, you may contact the Office of Court Administration to learn the name. However, you must still order the transcript within the time limits established in the Rule.
If a transcript is not required for the appeal, you need not order it.
The initial brief and designation of matter set forth the arguments and the evidence that you want to put before the Court of Appeals. For guidance in these matters, you must carefully study Rules 208 and 209 along with Forms 12 and 13.
Only one copy of the initial brief and the designation needs to be filed.
When filing the designations, you should not send copies of the documents themselves. Simply make a list of what you want included, in the manner shown in Form 13. Keep in mind that nothing can be designated that was not included in the proceedings before the lower court.
The respondent’s brief sets forth the reasons that the Court of Appeals should uphold the decision of the trial court.
The respondent need not designate any item that the appellant has designated. However, if the appellant has not designated an item that the respondent deems should be included in the appeal, the respondent should designate that item.
After the respondent serves the Initial Respondent’s Brief and Designation of Matter, the appellant has ten days to serve and file a Reply Brief. Rule 208. The appellant is not required to file a Reply Brief. No new grounds for appeal can be raised in the Reply Brief. The appellant may make additional designations at this point.
The content of the Record on Appeal, as well as the time for serving and filing the Record on Appeal, are found in Rule 210. The appellant must make sure that the Record on Appeal complies with this Rule.
The Record on Appeal is permitted to contain only the material that the parties have previously designated. If an item does not appear in a Designation of Matter, then the appellant cannot include it the Record on Appeal. By the same token, everything designated by a party must be included in the Record on Appeal.
The appellant must make sure that the Record on Appeal is properly bound. The requirements for this step are found in Rule 267. The cover must be of 50 pound weight cover stock or more. Your local copy shop can help you with this step.
Final briefs are identical to the initial briefs except in three ways: 1) cover and bindings; 2) number of copies served and filed; and 3) references to the Record on Appeal. Rule 211.
The appellant’s brief has a blue cover; the respondent’s brief is red; the reply brief is gray. The covers of these briefs must be of stiff cover stock, like the Record on Appeal. See Rule 267.
Three copies of each brief are served on the opposing party; the original and 14 copies are filed with the Court.
The references in the initial briefs must be revised to show where the material appears in the Record on Appeal.
Service is your mailing or delivery of a document to the opposing party. Filing is the mailing or delivery of a document to the Court of Appeals. The general rule on service and filing is Rule 262. Also see above: How do I serve and file a Notice of Appeal?.
Note that filing of a petition for rehearing or a petition to reinstate is complete only when the document is actually received by the Court of Appeals.
When a party is represented by counsel, service should be on counsel.
As soon as the Record on Appeal and the Final Briefs are served and filed, the appeal is ready for consideration by the Court. Most cases are taken under advisement within four to six months of being ready for consideration. Most of this time period is attributable to preliminary work on the case by the judges. Some of the time is delay caused by the large number of cases pending in the Court.
Some cases are heard in oral argument. Others are taken under consideration without oral argument, a process called submission. The judges of the Court determine in each case whether they will hear oral argument or take the case on submission.
The judges decide each case by means of a written decision. These generally appear within two to eight weeks after the case has been taken under consideration. It is not unusual for the process to take rather longer. If the controlling law is clear, this decision may be very short. The decision is mailed to the parties by the Clerk’s office.
Within 15 days after the decision in your case is filed, you can file a petition for rehearing under Rule 221. If the petition for rehearing is unsuccessful, you may petition the South Carolina Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari under Rule 242. The purpose of this petition is to ask the Supreme Court to review the decision of the Court of Appeals.