Background on Stating Issues on Appeal

This post is in a series on ways to frame the issues on appeal, and wraps up the discussion with a synopsis of South Carolina history.

Before 1990, parties taking an appeal had to file both exceptions to the trial court order and a statement of the questions involved. Exceptions required specificity:  “Each exception must contain a concise statement of one proposition of law or fact which [the appellate court] is asked to review . . ..” Supreme Court Rule 4, § 6 (repealed). The Court often dismissed appeals where the exceptions were not specific enough. See, e.g., Richards v. Port Glass & Mirror, Inc., 274 S.C. 558, 266 S.E.2d 67 (1980)(dismissing appeal where exception stated, “That the trial judge committed error in directing a verdict in favor of defendant-respondent.”).

In contrast, the statement of the questions involved had to be stated in the briefest and most general terms. Supreme Court Rule 8, § 2. The Court often dismissed appeals where the statement of the questions was so specific that they merely repeated the exceptions. See e.g., Diamond v. Powell, 271 S.C. 183, 246 S.E.2d 233 (1978).

The current rules do away with the old exceptions yet seem to incorporate their requirements. Like the former exceptions, each issue stated must be concise and direct. And general statements that were formerly required in the statement of questions may now be disregarded. Rule 208(b)(1)(B), SCACR.

Decisions construing the post-1990 rules show this preference for more specific issue statements. The Supreme Court has noted that every ground of appeal ought to be so distinctly stated that the reviewing court may — at once — see the point which it is called on to decide without having to grope in the dark. It may consider an issues stated less specifically if, and only if, the issue is reasonably clear from the arguments raised. Herron v. Century BMW, 395 S.C. 461, 466, 719 S.E.2d 640, 642-643 (2011).

Parties taking appeals in South Carolina may thus consider erring on the side of specificity.

And South Carolina respondents should consider submitting their own statement of the issues. Rule 208(b)(2), SCACR, allows Respondents to present their own statement of the issues if they are dissatisfied with the appellant’s statement.  Why pass up the opprotunity to frame the issues?

Any thoughts about drafting the issue statement? Please let me hear from you. You may reach me at www.attorneyroberthill.com. 

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