How Does the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals Work?
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals is an intermediate appellate court in the Alabama court system. The court has appellate jurisdiction over all civil matters in the state except for appeal cases involving more than $50,000 and appeal cases from the state’s Public Service Commission.
These types of cases include:
- Civil appeal cases where the amount in controversy is less than $50,000
- Appeals from all Alabama administrative agencies in cases where a judgment was entered by a state Circuit Court (except the Alabama Public Service Commission)
- Appeals in workers’ compensation cases
- Appeals from domestic relations cases (this includes divorce, annulment, alimony, adoption, child support, and custody cases)
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals is composed of five justices, with the most senior justice serving as the court’s presiding judge. Justices are elected to a six-year term in partisan elections and are allowed to run for election multiple times. However, under statutory law, judges up to 70 years of age cannot seek re-election. Before an individual can be eligible for election, the person must have been licensed to practice Alabama law for at least ten years. However, this 10-year timeframe may include years of licensed legal practice in another state. When the position of justice becomes vacant before the election year, it is occupied by the state governor’s appointee.
The length of time an appeal takes in the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals varies depending on the case. However, parties that wish to file an appeal in Alabama are required to do so no later than 42 days after a trial court has passed the final judgment.
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals is not a trial court; thus, cases heard in this court do not involve witnesses, juries, new testimony, or court reporters. When an appeal is filed, the justices review the Alabama trial court’s actions and decisions.
Trial courts’ records are reviewed to determine whether any procedural errors may have occurred during the trial process. Appealing parties will be required to submit briefs and any other necessary documents. These documents may include evidence and exhibits presented during the case’s trial. Appealing parties may also request for oral arguments to be scheduled. Oral arguments can also be scheduled at the direction of the intermediate appellate court. However, the court has the right to reject requests for oral arguments. Once oral arguments have been heard and the submitted briefs and documents reviewed, the justices will render an opinion. A rehearing may be requested within two weeks after the court’s opinion has been rendered.
Appealing parties unsatisfied with the decision of the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals may file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of Alabama. The Supreme Court may choose to either grant or deny this petition. Where the petition is denied, the decision of the state’s Court of Civil Appeals is considered final. On the other hand, where the petition is granted, the case file and all necessary documents will be transferred to the Supreme Court for review.
Persons that wish to access the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals’ decisions and opinions may do so by utilizing the Civil Appeals Decisions and Opinions database provided by the state’s judicial system. Public access to this database is free of charge, and opinions are uploaded weekly.
Alternatively, interested parties can also obtain copies of Alabama Court of Civil Appeals records by contacting the Supreme Court and State Law Library located at the address below Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.:
Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building
300 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, AL 36104
Phone: (334) 229–0578
Requests can also be made via mail to:
Attn: Public Services
Alabama Supreme Court and State Law Library
300 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, AL 36104
Alabama Court of Civil Appeals records available at state law library include:
- Oral argument docket sheets, from 1989 to date
- Oral argument recordings, from 1994 to date
Payments for obtaining copies of these records can be made via cash, checks, or money orders. However, parties that request for these records via mail can only pay via check or money order. The money or orders checks should be made payable to the “Alabama Supreme Court and State Law Library.”
These documents typically cost 25 cents per page for in-person requests. Copies obtained via postal mail or email cost $5 for the first ten pages and 50 cents extra for each additional page, while copies obtained via fax cost $2 per page. CD recordings cost $10 per copy, while DVDs cost $15 each. There is also an additional $2.50 shipping fee charged for mailing CD or DVD recordings to the requester.
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals sits to hear cases at: