Learn how to appeal your District Court case to the Appellate Division.
Guide Appeal a District Court civil case to the Appellate Division
Table of Contents
When a case is ready for appeal
A case is ready for appeal when a judgment has been entered about all issues and parties so there’s nothing left to litigate. You must file a notice of appeal and the $180 filing fee with the clerk of the District Court where your case was heard within 10 days of the date the judgment was entered. See Dist./Mun. Cts. R. A. D. A. 3(a) and 4(a). If you’ve filed and served certain post-judgment motions on time, the 10-day period for filing the notice of appeal starts on the date the court’s order on the motion was entered. See Dist./Mun. Cts. R. A. D. A. 4(a).
If a District Court judge has made an order or ruling that isn’t a final judgment in your case and you believe that the judge has committed an error of law or an abuse of discretion, you may appeal that order or ruling to the Appellate Division, but only where:
Notice of appeal
A notice of appeal is a written statement you prepare that includes the name of your case and the District Court docket number, and that states that you intend to appeal. The notice must include:
- The name of the party taking the appeal
- A short statement on the issue of law you’re presenting for review
- The judgment, ruling, finding, or decision being appealed
- If it’s a ruling, a copy of the motion, request for ruling, or proof of evidence in favor of the ruling. Dist./Mun. Cts. R. A. D. A. 3(c).
The notice may also include a request for the clerk to order the audio recording of the proceedings on the required court form and with the $50.50 fee. Dist./Mun. Cts. R. A. D. A. 3(c)(5). If the District Court where your case was heard uses For the Record (FTR) to record cases, you will need to follow Trial Court Administrative Order 19-1 to review the audio recording of your case and obtain a transcript.
How to appeal
File the notice of appeal and the $180 filing fee with the clerk of the District Court division where your case was heard within 10 days of the date the judgment was entered. See Dist./Mun. Cts. R. A. D. A. 4(c) or Rule 14(b) if you’ve missed the filing deadline.
File the notice of appeal and the filing fee with the clerk of the District Court division where your case was heard within 10 days of the date the judgment was entered. See Dist./Mun. Cts. R. A. D. A. 4(c) or Rule 14(b) if you’ve missed the filing deadline.
Choose the type of appeal to file
Once you’ve filed a notice of appeal and filing fee in the District Court to begin an appeal of a District court civil case, the next step for the appellant is to choose an appeal method.
There are 3 appeal options:
- An expedited appeal under Dist./Mun. Cts. R. A. D. A. 8A. Please see Appeal a District Court civil case to the Appellate Division via an expedited appeal for more information on the process.
- An agreed statement of the case under Rule 8B. Please see Appeal a District Court civil case to the Appellate Division via an agreed statement of the case for more information on the process.
- An appeal on the record of proceedings under Rule 8C. Please see Appeal a District Court civil case to the Appellate Division via an appeal on the record of proceedings for more information on the process.
Submitting a brief
Once you have chosen an appeal method, you must submit a brief. Briefs are required for an appeal. In appeals under Rule 8A and 8B, the parties file their briefs in the trial court. In appeals under Rule 8C, they file their briefs in the Appellate Division.
Rule 16 and Rule 20 of the Dist./Mun. Cts. R.A.D.A. explain the requirements for the content, length, and format of briefs. The appellant’s brief and appellee’s brief can’t be more than 50 pages of standard type, not including any addendum. The appellant’s reply brief can’t be more than 25 pages of standard type. Page margins between 1–1.25 inches are acceptable. The briefs must be bound.
An appellee is allowed, but not required, to file a brief. If the appellee doesn’t file a brief, you won’t be allowed to argue your side at oral argument before the Appellate Division. See Dist./Mun. Cts. R.A.D.A.19(c). An appellee isn’t allowed to file their own appendix (called a supplemental appendix) on a Rule 8C appeal without permission from the Appellate Division. If you think the appellant has left out important parts of the record below that you want the Appellate Division to consider when deciding the appeal, you must file a Motion for Leave to File a Supplemental Appendix, explaining which additional documents you want to include.
There is no color requirement for the front cover to the briefs or appendix (if separately bound), so a white cover is acceptable. However, parties can choose to follow the color requirements for appeals to the Massachusetts Appeals Court. In that case, the cover of the appellant’s brief is blue, the appellee’s brief cover is red, the cover of any reply brief is gray, and the cover of the appendix (if separately bound) is white.
Service of process
Every motion, brief, and other paper filed in the trial court or Appellate Division for an appeal must also be served by first-class mail or by hand upon counsel for the opposing party or on the opposing party if they’re unrepresented. As proof of this, each filing must include a certificate of service that says the date, how the filing was served, and the name and address of the person served. See Dist./Mun. Cts. R.A.D.A. 13.
If for some reason you can’t meet the deadline to serve and file your brief, you may file a motion to ask for more time in the trial court (for Rule 8A or Rule 8B appeals) or in the Appellate Division (for Rule 8C appeals). The motion must explain your reasons for requesting the extension, give a date when you will file the brief, and include a certificate of service. A copy of the motion must be served on all other parties to the appeal.
It’s the Appellate Division’s policy to allow only 1 time extension per side, and then only on the basis of the motion setting forth “good cause” to justify the extension requested. See Dist./Mun. Cts. R.A.D.A. 14(b). Additional time extensions will usually not be granted unless there’s a genuine emergency, such as death, illness, or serious injury.
Procedure for filing an opposition
Any party may file a response to oppose a motion within 7 days of service of the motion. The Appellate Division may act on procedural motions (such as a motion to enlarge time) without waiting for an opposition. The Appellate Division may shorten or extend the time for responding to any motion. See Dist./Mun. Cts. R.A.D.A. 15.
Hearings before the Appellate Division
The Appellate Division will send notice to the parties when and where the oral argument will be. Typically, the Northern District hears oral argument at the John Adams Courthouse in Boston, the Western District hears oral argument at East Brookfield District Court, and the Southern District hears oral argument at Plymouth District Court. Oral argument takes place before a 3-judge panel, and each side will be allowed 15 minutes for argument.
Appeals from the Appellate Division
You may appeal a final decision of the Appellate Division to the Appeals Court. See G.L. c. 231, § 109. The appeals process is governed by the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure (Mass. R.A.P.). You must file your notice of appeal of the Appellate Division decision with the clerk of the District Court where the case started, not with the clerk of the Appellate Division. See Mass. R.A.P. 4(a). For more information, please see Appeals Court Frequently Asked Questions.