Rest in peace, Rene.
Plain English jury instructions for Louisiana: Your chance to comment

The most significant decision on Louisiana appellate procedure

Recently for a marketing piece, I was asked to answer the question, “What is an important case relevant to your practice area and why?” The answer I came up with is Gonzales v. Xerox Corp., 320 So. 2d 163 (La. 1975). At the risk of over-simplifying, Gonzales holds that, when an appellate court reverses a trial court’s judgment because of a legal error affecting the verdict, the appellate court ordinarily should not remand the case to the trial court for a new trial, but instead should determine the facts for itself and render the appropriate judgment. In these instances, the appellate court becomes the trier of fact.

Gonzales highlights the uniqueness of Louisiana civil appellate procedure. This uniqueness stems from La. Const. art. V § 10(B), which vests the courts of appeal with jurisdiction over both law and facts in civil cases, and from La. Code Civ. P. art. 2164, which empowers appellate courts not merely to review the trial court’s judgment, but to render judgment themselves. Gonzales is an application of these principles. And because a trial court’s legal error may lead to the appellate court’s having to decide the facts for itself, Gonzales highlights the importance of selling your side’s version of the facts to the appellate court.

That is why I think that, in the area of Louisiana civil appellate practice, Gonzales is one of the most important decisions on the books. Do you agree? What do you think is the most important case in this area? Comments are open.

Comments

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Susan Kalmbach

I've given this some thought, and my favorite quote on appellate (supervisory) procedure is found in a 2008 footnote.
"We recognize the court of appeal's writ denial in this case was done with an opinion and purports to affirm the judgment of the trial court. However, having declined to exercise its supervisory jurisdiction by denying the writ, the court of appeal was without jurisdiction to affirm, reverse or modify the judgment of the trial court." K.A.E.M. v. J.M.C., 983 So. 2d 1259, 1259 n.1 (La. 2008).

Ray

Thanks, Susan. There are actually two important lessons in K.A.E.M. v. J.C.M. One is the point that you mentioned. The other is that, when the court of appeal’s rules don’t allow for a rehearing, applying for rehearing will not interrupt the 30-day time limit to apply to the La. Supreme Court for a writ.

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