Josi McCauley contributes this article as a member of OCR’s litigation support team. She works as a GAL in the 8th Judicial District.
Most time spent in appellate practice as a GAL will be as an appellee. Sometimes, however, decisions made at the trial court have such great impact on the best interests of the children that it warrants consideration of whether to appeal. Determining whether and when to appeal can be complicated. The following information is meant to assist you in making your decision. As always, start by reviewing the Appeals Fact Sheet in the GRID.
Magistrates’ orders must first be reviewed and ruled on before they are ripe for appeal. § 19-1-108(5.5), C.R.S.
Generally, appeals may be taken from final judgments. C.A.R. 1(a)(1). The Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over appeals from final judgments. § 13-4-102(1), C.R.S. A final judgment is “one which ends the particular action in which it is entered, leaving nothing further for the court pronouncing it to do in order to completely determine the rights of the parties involved in the proceeding.” E.O. v. People, El Paso County Dept. of Social Services, 854 P.2d 797, 801 (Colo. 1993) (quoting Stillings v. Davis, 406 P.2d 337, 338 (Colo. 1965)). An order is considered final only where written, signed and dated by the district court judge. C.R.C.P. 58(a).
D&N cases can go on for years, and until dismissal of the case, it seems there is always something more for the court to do or to review. Determining finality is complicated and is frequently addressed by appellate courts.
Termination orders in dependency and neglect cases are not final per se, as there is still more for the court to do after rights have been terminated. However, Title 19 provides exceptions to finality for termination orders, orders denying a request for termination, and orders of adjudication after the entry of a dispositional order. § 19-1-109(2)(b),(c), C.R.S.
Most orders issued in dependency and neglect cases are interlocutory in nature, meaning they are not final. Regardless of their finality, these orders often have immediate, concrete impacts on children that are irreversible. Interlocutory appeals are discretionary with both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.Prior to proceeding with an interlocutory appeal, determine whether there are other avenues to relief. If you determine that an interlocutory appeal is your only opportunity for relief, be certain to review the applicable rules.
The Court of Appeals has discretion to permit interlocutory appeal of certified questions of law. § 13-4-102.1, C.R.S; C.A.R. 4.2. Although the Court of Appeals has not published a dependency and neglect issue certified pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute 13-4-102.1, nothing in the statute or rules disqualifies from consideration issues arising from these types of cases. The Colorado Supreme court is the court of last resort. C.A.R. 21 is discretionary and permits a party to directly appeal to the Supreme Court for relief. However, relief is “extraordinary in nature,” and will be granted only where there is no other adequate remedy. C.A.R. 21.
The Litigation Support Team is Here to Help
If you find yourself debating the finality of an issue, or whether to pursue an appeal, please do not hesitate to contact the litigation support team. We are here to support you in your practice at any time and can offer consults, assistance, or even do the appeal for you, depending on your needs. Our contact information can be found on OCR’s website and preapproval is not necessary before you reach out.