To the California Court of Appeal of the [ordinal number] District or to the United States District Court for the [geographic jurisdiction] District of California?

If both, is any of them almost always more advisable? Which one and why?

Thank you!

2 Answers 2


Interlocutory appeals are very rarely permitted at all. The advisability of even considering bringing one depends on the nature of the issue involved.

Appeals From State Courts To The Federal Courts Are Not Permitted

You can never file an appeal interlocutory or otherwise from a state court to the United States District Court for the [geographic jurisdiction] District of California (which is a federal court).

You can sometimes remove a case to federal court, a bankruptcy court can discharge a debt created by a state court, and you can very rarely seek an injunction in federal court that would have the practical effect of rendering a state court order unenforceable. But none of these interactions between the state and federal courts is an appeal.

Also, injunctive relief in federal court from a state court ruling or proceeding is extremely limited. This is primarily due to the Rooker Feldman doctrine and by the Anti-Injunction Act.

The Rooker Feldman doctrine was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923) and District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983). It provides that federal courts below the Supreme Court must not become a court of appeals for state court decisions.

The Anti-Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2283, bars federal courts from entering injunctions of state-court proceedings except (1) “as expressly authorized by Act of Congress,” (2) “when necessary in aid of” the federal court's jurisdiction, or (3) “to protect or effectuate federal court judgments.”

The most common injunction in aid of the Anti-Injunction Act which is permitted would be an order prohibiting a state court from taking action in violation of a federal bankruptcy court stay of proceedings.

There are two other statutes that apply in tax cases.

The Tax Anti-Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1341, prevents federal district courts from "enjoin[ing], suspend[ing] or restrain[ing] the assessment, levy or collection of any tax under State law where a plain, speedy and efficient remedy may be had in the courts of such State."

Also, while not a limitation on federal court involvement in state court cases, 26 U.S.C. § 7421, sometimes also called the Anti-Injunction Act, prevents federal courts from exercising jurisdiction over pre-enforcement suits to restrain "the assessment or collection of any tax." This statute is similar to the Tax Anti-Injunction Act but has been held to apply only to federal taxes.

There are circumstances in which, after all relief under state law is exhausted, a state criminal conviction can be collaterally attacked in a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. This is statutorily constrained by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. It is not a means of relief that is usually available for interlocutory appeals. The only question that might be possible to raise in an interlocutory habeas corpus petition in federal court from a state criminal proceeding is the jurisdiction of the state court to try the crime, and even then, it might be necessary to seek relief from other state courts first.

There are extremely rare cases in which interlocutory relief from a trial court ruling such as a California Superior Court ruling may be obtained directly from the U.S. Supreme Court, in the form a petition for some kind of writ, but applications for this kind of relief are denied as a matter of course and only granted in the most extraordinary circumstances. The scope of interlocutory review by the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewed in this Stanford law review article from 1967.

This kind of relief is granted perhaps once every year or two in the entire United States, at most, and perhaps less frequently. The kind of case where this might happen might be one where you asserted that you have a U.S. constitutional right to have an order reviewed on appeal as a final judgment, but the California Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court declined to accept or consider your appeal because those courts considered the ruling to be interlocutory or were statutorily barred from reviewing the trial court's order under California law.

State Interlocutory Appeals In California

Under California Code of Civil Procedure § 166.1, you can request the trial court to "indicate" in an order its "belief that there is a controlling question of law as to which there are substantial grounds for difference of opinion, appellate resolution of which may materially advance the conclusion of the litigation." But the trial court's finding is not a necessary prerequisite to review, and such a statement doesn't let you file an "appeal." You still need to petition for a writ, which is left to the broad discretion of the Court of Appeal. The trial court's statement is just a comment on the significance of the issue—basically, a nudge to get the Court of Appeal to consider the writ petition carefully.

The relevant California procedural rule is here. A 1984 law review article provides some background that while not reliable in its details, provides context for the overall procedure.

Today, the main forms of interlocutory appellate review in California are writs of mandamus, review of grants of preliminary injunctions, anti-SLAPP motion review, and qualified immunity denial appeals. There is also statutory list of orders that are considered final for purposes of appeal even though they do not end the entire case.

All of these interlocutory appeals are to the California Court of Appeals for the relevant district in which the superior court issuing the order is located.

There are extremely rare cases in which interlocutory relief from a trial court ruling such as a California Superior Court ruling may be obtained directly from the California Supreme Court, in the form a petition for some kind of writ, but applications for this kind of relief are denied as a matter of course and only granted in the most extraordinary circumstances, although I can't point to any specific examples when this would be the case at the moment.

  • 1
    Thank you, so very much! I am beyond thankful and humbled by the care in this explanation! I'm so thankful, thank you!
    – kisspuska
    May 23, 2021 at 15:08
  • I'm trying to think of a situation that is so extreme that would justify immediate interlocutory relief from the Cal. Supreme Court, would actual denial of counsel on the grounds that a defendant proceeds pro se but there is substantial uncertainty relating to the actual or intelligent agreement of defendant to pros se be enough as a Superior Court interprets Am't VI as not applicable in providing assistance of counsel to the defendant to decide if going Faretta is actually a waiver of Am't VI? I know granting review is broadly discretionary (thank you for the material!) but your wild guess!
    – kisspuska
    May 24, 2021 at 19:38
  • @kisspuska The most likely scenario would probably involve cases that are proceeding in parallel in two or more court of appeals districts based upon conflicting venue rulings in different superior courts or something of that nature, or a dispute about the proper forum for an interlocutory appeal in the case of a superior court which was moved from one court of appeals district to another in the middle of a case.
    – ohwilleke
    May 25, 2021 at 17:13

Assuming you have a right of interlocutory appeal at all -- you usually don't -- you would file the appeal in the Courts of Appeal for whichever district.

There are some types of cases that can be appealled directly to the California Supreme Court, or where you could petition the federal courts for an order to vacate the trial court's ruling, but these would be uncommon.

  • Thank you very much, this is very helpful! But just to double-check: You mean, the California Court of the certain District which would have jurisdiction, hence, you go to a state appeal court, and not federal..? (That's certainly what I read from all the things you said.) I tried plussing your answer, but I don't have enough reputation.
    – kisspuska
    May 21, 2021 at 0:15
  • 2
    Yes, the California Court of Appeal for District X.
    – bdb484
    May 21, 2021 at 14:04
  • 1
    Thank you very much for your kind answers!
    – kisspuska
    May 23, 2021 at 15:07

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