4

A judge in a civil case makes a judgment justifying it by similar decision made in somewhat relevant case.

A party to the case is dissatisfied with the judgment. They find a more recent and, more importantly, much more closely related case (same court) in which the decision was the opposite.

Can what the judge did be called "error of law" for the purposes of appeal?

7

On an issue of pure law, an appellate court decides if the trial judge got it right or wrong from scratch, and if there is a case that is a better match than the one that the judge used that leads to a different outcome in the case, then an appellate court is likely to find that the trial court's ruling is a reversible error.

On an issue of mixed fact and law, or on a legal issue where a judge has more discretion in how the law is applied (like many evidentiary issues), a judge is given more deference, and the judge will generally only be reversed if no reasonable judge could have applied the correct law to the facts viewed in the light in which the judge saw them, and then, only if an application of the correct law to the facts viewed in the light in which the judge saw them would have changed the outcome of the case. There are a couple of ways that this standard of review is described, one of which is called "abuse of discretion" review.

4

Probably not

The judge is required to decide the case on the basis of the law the parties argue. If neither party draws the judge’s attention to a relevant case it would not be an error of law for the judge to not consider it. Indeed, it would likely be an error of law (denial of natural justice or breach of procedural fairness) if the judge did consider it without hearing argument on it.

There may be scope for appeal if the relevant decision was handed down between final argument and the decision.

  • 1
    "If neither party draws the judge’s attention to a relevant case it would not be an error of law for the judge to not consider it." What if the cases that the judge considered were not mentioned by any party? That is, the judge picked up a less relevant case themselves where they could (should?) have picked up a more recent and relevant one? – Greendrake Jul 29 at 12:23
  • 4
    Where I practice, it is necessary to call attention to the issue in the trial court, but not the relevant case, and law decided at any time until the appellate court decision is final (even after oral argument is completed) may be considered on appeal, even if that law wasn't available at trial or a state supreme court declines to follow what was binding law at the time that the trial court ruled (I've had numerous appeals decided based upon such late breaking law). – ohwilleke Jul 29 at 14:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.