New Hampshire only has one appellate court, the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The New Hampshire Supreme Court (“Supreme Court”) hears appeals from all the state’s lower court (Superior and District, Probate, and Family Divisions. If also hears appeals from administrative agencies such as: Department of Labor and the Board of Tax and Land Appeals). Absent certain exceptions, the New Hampshire Supreme Court must hear all appeals from a lower court of administrative agencies’ decision.
The Supreme Court does not retry the case. An argument before the Supreme Court does not involve calling witnesses or introducing evidence. Instead, the Supreme Court reviews the lower court or administrative agency’s decision to determine if that entity made a mistake in its interpretation of the law or its application of the facts. It is also important to realize that the Supreme Court does not conduct a “blanket review” of the entire decision. Rather, the party who files the appeal must clearly specify the issues they want it to review. This document is called a Notice of Appeal. Absent permission of the Supreme Court, the appealing party will not be allowed to argue any issue that was not first raised in the Notice of Appeal.
It is also important to realize that the Supreme Court does not have to grant the appealing party an oral argument. Many appeals are decided “on paper” meaning the Supreme Court will review the documents that have been filed with the Court and will make a decision based upon the written materials without further input from the parties.
Appeals to the Supreme Court can be both complicated to both lay persons and for attorneys who are not comfortable in researching and writing the specialized legal documents that accompany an appeal. If you are involved in a lawsuit and received an unfavorable decision from a trial court, you should speak with an experienced appellate attorney to determine whether you have a viable basis to an appeal. You must file your Notice of Appeal within 30 days of the date of the Clerk’s Notice of Decision. If you miss that deadline, the Supreme Court will mostly likely not accept your appeal.
Andrew J. Piela is a Director at Hamblett & Kerrigan, P.A. Mr. Piela concentrates his practice in civil litigation, family law, probate and land use litigation. You can reach Attorney Piela by e-mail at [email protected].