The Explainer: Appealing a Case to the South Carolina Court of Appeals

by Christian Stegmaier

As a general rule, any final order or decision of the Court of Common Pleas (civil), Court of General Sessions (criminal), a Master-in-Equity, the Family Court, or a Special Referee can be appealed to a higher court. The appellate tribunal that will most likely hear the case initially is the Court of Appeals. It is only in special circumstances where the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over an appeal from the trial venue.

The modern-day South Carolina Court of Appeals was established in 1983. The Court is comprised of nine judges who sit on panels of three.

Once a party is in receipt of the trial court’s written decision, it is crucial for the party to immediately determine whether an appeal will be pursued. If an appeal is to be taken, then the party must be sure to serve and file its “Notice of Appeal” within the allotted time.

An appeal of a civil matter must be made within 30 days of the receipt of an order. The time to make an appeal from a criminal conviction is 10 days. Under no circumstances can these deadlines be extended. In other words, an untimely appeal means dismissal of the case – with prejudice.

The party appealing the trial court decision is the “Appellant.” The party “defending” in the appeal is the “Respondent.”

After the Appellant has served its Notice of Appeal on the opposing party and filed it with the Court, the Appellant must secure a transcript of the proceedings. Within 30 days after receiving the transcript, the party must serve one copy of its initial brief on all parties to the appeal and file with the Court. The Respondent will then have 30 days to prepare, file, and serve its initial brief. The Appellant then has the opportunity to file and serve an initial reply brief. This brief is optional; however, most Appellants elect to prepare such a brief. Once the initial reply brief is filed and served,

Companion with the briefs is oral argument. The Court uses oral argument to gain better understanding about the parties’ respective positions and the relief each seeks. As a rule, litigants are not entitled to oral argument as of right ― the Court designates which cases will be heard. Typically, oral argument is reserved for those disputes involving numerous issues and complicated in nature. Cases not set for oral argument by the Court can nevertheless be so designated upon motion by one or both of the parties.

Once oral argument has occurred, the case is deeded “submitted.” If there is to be no oral argument, the case is considered “submitted” with the filing of the final briefs.

A frequently asked question following submission of a case is “How long will it be until a decision is rendered?” The truth is, there is no rule or timetable is Court is required to follow with regard to issuing an opinion. It can be several days, several months, or maybe a year or more. The time it takes for an opinion to be rendered depends on several things, including: the authoring judge and his or her caseload; the complexity or novelty of the issues; and the size of the Record on Appeal.

A decision of the Court can be appealed to the Supreme Court. This appeal, however, is not automatic. For a case heard by the Supreme Court, a Writ of Certiorari must be granted. These writs are obtained via petition to the Supreme Court. A Petition for Writ of Certiorari can be made only after the party seeking such relief has filed a Petition for Rehearing with the Court of Appeals and received the Court’s decision. History shows that the Court of Appeals rarely, if ever, grants these petitions. Upon denial of its Petition for Rehearing, the appealing party has 30 days to file its Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the Supreme Court.

Most petitions for certiorari are denied rather than granted; nevertheless, where the party believes the Court of Appeals has misapplied or misapprehended the law in arriving at its decision, that party should seriously consider filing its petition.

This material is intended to provide information on a noteworthy legal issue and is not a substitute for legal advice. For further assistance, contact competent legal counsel to discuss the same
About Christian Stegmaier
Senior Shareholder

Christian Stegmaier is a shareholder and chair of the Retail & Hospitality Practice Group at Collins & Lacy in Columbia. He is also active in the firm’s professional liability and appellate practices. Stegmaier welcomes your questions at (803) 255-0454 or