Since January 2004, the Supreme Court has accepted the majority of appeals from the State's trial courts: the Circuit Court (the family, district, and probate divisions), and the Superior Court. With a few exceptions (which are listed in the definition of "mandatory appeal" in Supreme Court Rule 3), a timely appeal from a final decision of a trial court is a "mandatory appeal," meaning that the appeal is automatically accepted for appellate review by the Supreme Court. In a mandatory appeal, the parties generally are given the opportunity to submit a transcript of the trial court proceedings and to file written briefs. After the briefs have been filed, the Supreme Court decides whether the case should be scheduled for oral argument or decided on the briefs alone. The Supreme Court then issues a final decision, which may be a short and succinct order, an order with extensive explanation, or a full written opinion.
Administrative appeals, interlocutory appeals and interlocutory transfers, petitions for original jurisdiction (such as petitions for writs of habeas corpus) and appeals from the decisions of the trial courts in a few types of cases are "discretionary appeals," meaning that the Supreme Court may decide, in its discretion, not to accept the cases for appellate review. If a discretionary appeal is accepted, it typically follows the same process as a mandatory appeal, i.e., preparation of a transcript, briefing, oral argument, if necessary, and final decision.
The appeal process and procedure are set forth in the Supreme Court Rules. The forms needed to file an appeal from a trial court decision and instructions for completing the forms can be downloaded. Administrative appeals may often be governed by statutory requirements. Anyone intending to file an appeal should review carefully the Supreme Court Rules and applicable statutes. Answers to the most frequent questions about the appeal process are provided on the FAQ page.
An Appellate Advocacy Guide, written by two experienced appellate lawyers, Attorney Lisa Wolford of the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, and Attorney Stephanie Hausman of the New Hampshire Appellate Defender’s Office, is available on the New Hampshire Bar Association website. The guide is designed for parties and attorneys who do not appear regularly before the Supreme Court, and it offers valuable guidance and advice on preparing an appellate brief and presenting oral argument. As the guide itself states, however, the “guide is not a substitute for the Court rules themselves, though, so practitioners should be sure to familiarize themselves with the rules, which are found on the New Hampshire Judicial Branch website."