The old saying, "appellate judges spend all of their time looking for error, while trial judges spend all of theirs seeking the truth" has no justice to it, however accurate its literal description of the litigation process.' It is correct, however, that before the search for truth can begin at the appellate level, the supreme court or court of appeals must look for any error concerning the timeliness of the appeal. The practicing attorney, therefore, must know whether an order or judgment is appealable; and if so, when, where, and how should it be appealed?
The Appellate Practice Act of 1965,together with important amendments in 1966, 1968, 1975, 1979, and 1984, made a comprehensive revision of appellate practice and procedure in Georgia. The Act drew on prior Georgia statutes and then-existing appellate provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Its features were, in turn, thoughtfully considered when the Civil Practice Act of 1966, adapted from the Federal Rules, was enacted in the following year.s Today, an understanding of the significant differences between Georgia's post-judgment and appellate practice and their federal counterpart is one of the basic tools of any Georgia attorney.
Such an understanding is not easy to come by, even more than twenty-five years after the enactment of these statutes. Although the Georgia appellate courts have resolved some of the analytical pitfalls and practical problems in post-judgment and appellate practice, that body of law is far from comprehensive. The statutes and decisions pose significant dangers, some evident and others unforeseeable, for Georgia attorneys who must decide when, where, and how to file a notice or application for appeal. This Article will examine the provisions governing the entry of judgments and final orders, resetting post-judgment motions and their effect on the time for the notice or application for appeal, and direct, interlocutory, and discretionary appeals. Further, this Article will propose amendments to the appropriate Georgia statutes, including the Appellate and Civil Practice Acts, to clarify the rules of appeal and to reduce the risk that a notice or application for appeal will be found untimely.
Edward C. Brewer, Appeals, Interlocutory and Discretionary Applications, and Post-Judgment Motions in the Georgia Courts: The Current Practice and the Need for Reform Legislation, 44 Mercer L. Rev. 17 (1992).