Law Office of James Budreau  Criminal Law. Federal Trials and Appeals. Complex Civil Litigation.

Civil Litigation & Appeals

A civil case is initiated by filing a complaint in court or before a regulatory agency. If your complaint (the filer is called the Plaintiff) is not filed with the time limits prescribed by staute or regulation, then your claims will be lost forever. This “time limit” is often referred to as the staute of limitations or limitations of action. The court or agency generally does not have the power to extend this time limit so the first question you should always consult with a lawyer to determine what limitations period applies to your cause of action and when the claim must be filed to avoid violating the applicable time limit.

If a complaint is filed against you, you must answer within a specific time period. This time period is indicated on the summons attached to the complaint, but is generally twenty days after receipt. This time period can be extended upon leave from court, but the plaintiff can also seek to default a nonresponsive party. Therefore, it is essential that you contact and retain a lawyer well before the due date for your response.

Civil Cases

Once a complaint is filed, the discovery process begins. There may be depositions or interrogatories. Motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment can be filed in an effort to dispose of some claims in advance of trial. Often claims are settled in advance of trial through arbitration or negotiations. Other times, a jury of a judge will decide the merits of a case and whether damages can be assessed

Once a judge or jury has made a decision or returned a verdict after a trial, that is not necessarily the end of the case. The process usually involves depositions, interrogatories and production of document requests, which are used to either further establish a cause of action or defend against claims made in a
complaint. This is called an “appeal”. Jim Budreau represents people and companies in both civil and criminal trials and appeals.


An appeal begins by the filing of a Notice of Appeal. This is a relatively simple document to file but it must be filed within the time limits set by law or appeal rights may be forever lost. If you are contemplating an appeal, it is important to consult an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that you do not miss the deadline.

Choice of Courts

In Massachusetts, there are two state appellate courts, the Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). All cases are sent first to the Appeals Court, except for a few types of cases, such as first degree murder cases, which by statute proceed directly to the state's highest court, the SJC. Cases raising new or unusual issues may also be transferred for an initial hearing in the SJC at the request of the parties or by direct order of that Court. Once the Appeals Court has issued a decision, the party who disagrees with the result can request that the SJC review and hear the case. These requests are usually denied but there are some circumstances where they are granted and a new hearing is held in the SJC.

There is also a separate appeal process in the federal court. If the dispute arises out of a federal criminal or civil case, then a party can file an appeal in the U.S. Appeals Court within the required time limits. There are 13 circuits and Massachusetts is in the First Circuit Court of Appeals. If an appeal is denied then a full panel review can be requested or an appeal (called Petition for Certiorari) can be made to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court accepts very few petitions and generally only those that raise significant federal issues that impact public policy or where many circuits have issued conflicting opinions on the same subject.

State decisions can also be appealed to the federal court system if they raise federal issues. This is a complicated area of law, but it does afford parties another avenue of relief. In a criminal case, a defendant who is seeking to have the federal court reverse a state decision, will file a writ of habeas corpus (a petition to set the body free). Again, there are strict time limits and rules for exhausting remedies that must be met, so you should always seeks the advice of a lawyer when contemplating such an action.

How Long will the Litigation Process Take?

The trial process can take years by itself. In the Massachusetts state court, both civil and criminal cases are set on tracks in an effort to create specific time tables for different phases in the case. For example, in a civil case, the court will set deadlines for filing motions to dismiss and completion of discovery. These deadlines can be expanded upon leave by the Court. Criminal cases are given presumptive trial dates that can be changed if there are complicated issues that arise or discovery is delayed. The trial phase of most civil cases is usually completed within 2 years and criminal cases are resolved or tried within 1 to 2 years depending upon the complexities. The appeals process, obviously takes additional time.

Before a case reaches the appellate court, there may be delays in obtaining the complete trial record, including a trial transcript. Once a case is docketed in the appellate court, the process of preparing and submitting briefs takes at least three months and typically one or both parties will need additional time. Then the court will either schedule a time for argument or will issue an opinion. The whole process for an appeal in the state court can take between one to two years for both civil and criminal cases. In federal court, the process for an appeal is generally less than 18 months.

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What Happens if I Win the Appeal?

Most often a successful appeal will result in transferring the case back to the trial court for a new trial, reassessment of damages or resentencing. Occasionally, the appeal resolves a question of law which determines the final result, for example, the dismissal of a criminal charge or an order that the court enter a judgment in favor of a defendant in a civil suit. In a few cases, the appellate court may send the case to the trial court to decide a question of fact which may either resolve the case or, in some circumstances, require an additional appeal.

Again, contact Jim Budreau about any litigation or appellate issues you might have. He regularly litigates cases in both the trial and appellate courts in the Massachusetts state courts and federal courts throughout New England. He is a member of all Massachusetts and Maine bars and admitted to practice before federal courts in Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, the First, Second and Eleventh Circuits for the US Courts of Appeal. He regularly practices in the New Hampshire federal court and the U.S Supreme Court.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website does not constitute legal advice nor should it be relied upon in making any legal decisions. You should always consult with a lawyer directly to determine what your legal rights are. This web site and its content is not a substitute for direct legal advice from a lawyer.

James Budreau is a Boston MA Criminal Lawyer law firm. Our main offerings include: Criminal Defense Attorneys, Employment Lawyers and Divorce Attorneys for your legal needs.

We serve the following States, Cities, Zip Codes and Counties:
Massachusetts, Boston 02116, Cambridge 02238, Brookline 02445, Chestnut Hill 02467, Newton 02458, Dedham 02026, Wobum 01801, Salem 01970, Somerville 02143, Suffolk County, Middlesex County, Essex County, Norfolk County, Vermont, Burlington 05401

    Whether fighting the United States government, local prosecutors, large banks or conglomerates, Jim has consistently won verdicts or resolved cases to his clients advantage.
    Each client's legal needs and goals are unique. Applies cutting-edge legal analysis tools to address these concerns and obtain the best possible outcome for each client.
    Success is not just about finding the right legal precedent, but how to apply it to each client's needs. Jim has years of experience in courtroom tactics and persuading juries and judges on fundamental and complex legal issues.