The right to an appeal is often overlooked but can play a major role in whether your case succeeds or not. In Florida, appeals to district court of appeals can sometimes lead to reversals if the law and facts are on your side. However, this can sometimes be made difficult when the appellate court does not have a transcript of the proceedings that led to the appealable order/judgment in front of it. Here is why.
What is a hearing transcript good for?
In Florida, most motions, especially contentious ones, are set for a hearing in front of the trial judge to make oral arguments as to the law and the facts behind the motion. In that hearing the trial judge will hear arguments and decide on whether he/she agrees with the arguments in the motion or the opposition, or counter motion. Sometimes, the decision is a simple grant or deny; however, more often than not, the trial judge will give an explanation for his/her reasoning and that is what is of importance.
That is where a hearing transcript comes into play. Hiring a court reporter can sometimes be costly but the need for them is crucial and a strategic one. If you think that whatever the outcome of a hearing may be, you or the opposing side will seek an appeal, having a hearing transcript is essential because it is a codification of what the parties’ arguments were and why and how the judge ruled the way they did. This is all important to an appellate court as it reviews the record on appeal for error.
Why are hearing transcripts important for appeals in Florida?
In 1979, the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion, Applegate v. Barnett Bank of Tallahassee, 377 So. 2d 1150 (Fla. 1979), which stated that when a trial court is appealed, the trial court’s decision carries a presumption of correctness and the party appealing has the burden of demonstrating an error, by the trial court, occurred. Essentially, Applegate stands to mean that when the decision of a trial court can be seen to be correct and a transcript is lacking to demonstrate that the trial court’s reasoning was incorrect and it misapplied the law, the decision will be affirmed. This key case means that having transcripts of what a trial court says and reasons as to why they ruled a certain way can make the difference between potentially strengthening your argument on appeal, which would be supported by the transcript, or may risk being summarily affirmed by the appellate court because they have no reasoning from the trial court to scrutinize for error.
Why is preserving an argument and objection important?
Finally, hearing transcripts are essential to preserving issues for later appeals. Often times objections are made and arguments raised that may be forgotten after oral arguments in front of a trial court; however, having these memorialized in a hearing transcript makes it easier to raise the issues on appeal. Likewise, it ensures that there are no questions of waiving the argument or objections on appeal if it was not brought up in the trial court because the hearing transcript will show that the arguments or objections were properly raised and preserved at the trial court level. That said, the importance of a hearing transcript cannot be stressed enough, if you are asking yourself whether a court reporter is worth it, consider whether you may need to appeal a certain case.