1

As noted here:

Sometimes a judge simply enters a verdict with no real substantive explanation whatsoever, despite the fact that a judge is supposed to write an opinion making the findings of fact and reaching the conclusions of law necessary to support the verdict.

My vague understanding of appellate law is that a timely notice of appeal compels a judge to make a written answer containing those findings. Is that correct?

Are there practical reasons that the appeals process can't or shouldn't be used to elicit proper support of judicial verdicts?

2

My vague understanding of appellate law is that a timely notice of appeal compels a judge to make a written answer containing those findings. Is that correct?

No. A trial court is generally divested of jurisdiction to take any further action when a notice of appeal is filed.

The general rule is that a trial court ruling may be upheld for any reason supported by the record, even if that is not the reason articulated by the trial court judge. Another general rule is that when the parties make legal arguments, orally or in writing, and the court makes no conclusions of law, the court is presumed to have adopted the conclusions of law advanced by the prevailing party if that is consistent with the court's ultimate resolution of the case. But, particularly in equity and in cases where a statute requires it, a decision can be vacated and remanded if the judge does not articulate an adequate basis for the decision to allow meaningful appellate review.

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  • ... meaning that the only way to compel a judge to issue written justification for a verdict is to go "the whole nine yards" on appeal, to the point that the appellate court decides to vacate the original judgment and remand the case? (I assume most judges who don't issue justified verdicts would not respond well to a post-judgment notice from a party that, "If you don't explain this, I'm going to appeal?") – feetwet Mar 21 '18 at 18:05
  • @feetwet Pretty much. You can make a post-order motion to reconsider to clearly preserve your issues on appeal, but that's pretty much it. And don't get me started on the kindred issue of trying to get a judge to issue a ruling at all following a bench trial. I have one multimillion dollar case where the parties have been waiting almost two years for a ruling, and I've had several others over the years where parties have waited more than a year for a ruling. – ohwilleke Mar 21 '18 at 20:22
  • OMG. I thought I've read rules about how long a judge has to issue a ruling. Is the reality that there aren't enough rules that apply to judges, or is it that the judges don't care enough whether they follow the rules? And if the latter, is it that parties to a case don't want to press a judge to follow a rule because pressure would be likely to result in an adverse outcome? This probably merits a separate Q&A, but I'm not quite sure how to scope it.... – feetwet Mar 21 '18 at 20:45
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    The rule in Colorado state court is 60 days, but you don't want to pressure a judge to avoid an adverse outcome particularly if you are likely to win. You have to go through a prolonged process to ask the supreme court to dock the judge's pay until he or she rules to enforce the rule. And, I do understand the judge's point of view. The average Colorado general jurisdiction judge handles 1100 cases per year including nine full fledged trials a year (which can last for weeks) and dozens of additional evidentiary hearings. Fed judges have no rules that apply to them for all practical purposes. – ohwilleke Mar 21 '18 at 20:53

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