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The Real Deal With The Appeal Process

Posted by Jane F. Bolin, Esq. | Nov 19, 2013 | 0 Comments

Author: Michael Mayer,Senior Associate Attorney, PeytonBolin, PL.

We announced back in June a big win for one of our clients, Alden Hotel Condominium Owners Association against Fannie Mae. A notice of appeal was filed shortly thereafter and you may be wondering what is going on?

We thought we would use this case as an example to explain how the appeal process works. We are going to do our best to keep this simple and not use a lot of legal jargon, but some terms cannot be avoided.

After the appeal was filed by Fannie Mae (the appellant), they have to file their initial appellate brief explaining why they believe the judgment was not correct. In this particular case, they are claiming that they were the first mortgagee on the unit in question and therefore, entitled to Safe Harbor.

At the trial level, the trial judge found that Fannie Mae did not prove that it was the first mortgagee and therefore, the Association was entitled to collect on everything owed by that unit.

Fannie Mae filed an appeal and submitted its appellate brief. We now have the opportunity to respond to their brief. This response is called an answer brief. This includes going through Fannie Mae's brief and the transcripts in detail and responding to each of Fannie Mae's arguments and why it is wrong. This is where we are in the process today.

After we file our answer brief, the next step in the process is that Fannie Mae can reply to our answer brief. Once Fannie Mae submits its reply brief to our answer brief, a hearing is set where the judge will hear oral arguments.

We argue the case and the last step is that the judge rules.

This process can, and usually does, take over one year. Based on the timing thus far, we believe that oral arguments will be set sometime around May 2014.

A popular misconception about the appeal process is that the case is being retried. It is not. The only thing being looked at in the appeal process is whether the trial judge accurately applied the law to the facts presented. It has nothing to do with truthfulness or credibility. It is just looking at the facts and determining if they match up to the law.

To summarize, here are the steps to the appeal process:

7 steps to appeal process

  1. File an Appeal – Appellant (Fannie Mae)
  2. File the Appellate Brief – Appellant (Fannie Mae)
  3. File the Answer Brief – Appellee (Us)
  4. Reply to Answer Brief- Appellant (Fannie Mae)
  5. Hearing set for Oral Arguments (Court of Appeal)
  6. Argue it (Both parties)
  7. Court comes out with their opinion

In between steps is a matter of months, not days. This continues to be an important case for Florida Association Law so stay tuned. If you have any additional questions about the appeal process or association law, please contact us.

About the Author

Jane F. Bolin, Esq.

Founding Member, Managing Partner


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