The New Jersey Appellate Division processes thousands of cases each year. Each one of the cases that the Appellate Division processes is important to the litigants, important enough that the trial court made a ruling on a contested case, and important enough that one of those litigants has taken the trouble and has expended the resources to fight the case on past the trial court.
Appeals are always an uphill battle. The standards for appellate review place the burden on the Appellant to show that the trial court was wrong. The burden is a heavy one, and as a result, the statistics show that the Appellate Division upholds the trial courts in a substantial majority of the cases that result in an appeal.
The most recent statistics available from the New Jersey Judiciary are from the 2011-2012 court year. During the 2011-12 court year, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court in civil cases in sixty-eight percent of cases handled by three judge panels. During that same court year, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court in civil cases in seventy-two percent of cases handled by two judge panels. In other words, in seven out of ten civil cases heard by the Appellate Division, the appellant loses.
The odds are even worse for appellants in cases involving the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP). Howes & Howes performed an informal study of unpublished Appellate Division cases involving DCPP. During the period from July 2013 through July 2014, there were sixty-one (61) appeals involving DCPP cases. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court in fifty-six (56) of those cases. That represents an eight percent success rate.
Before appealing an adverse decision of a trial court in a DCPP case, a litigant be realistic about the likelihood of success lies. The likelihood of success on appeal in most cases is low. Success is not impossible, but with a good brief and a strong argument, you can beat the odds and win in the Appellate Division.