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Scope of Review

The scope of review is limited to issues raised in trial court.  This is because it would be unfair to fault a trial court on a particular issue on appeal without giving it an opportunity to try that issue.  It is also unfair for a party to remain silent in the trial court and subsequently assert error on appeal.  Limitation is applicable only to parties to appeal and not to reviewing court.  An issue not addressed in trial court can be raised in the appellate court only if the issue:

  • is on subject matter jurisdiction;
  • affects the fairness, integrity, or reputation of public judicial proceedings;
  • is one of law only;
  • affects the right to maintain the action; or
  • is on standing to a legally recognized relief.

Only final judgments are appealable.  A final judgment is one that disposes of all issues raised by the pleadings and evidence, so as to finally resolve the dispute between the parties.  Therefore, an ancillary proceeding and a judgment there from is not appealable unless such order or judgment is final.

Only clearly erroneous findings of facts can be set aside in appeal.[i] Additionally trial court findings unsupported by substantial evidence can be set aside.  However, the findings of fact made in the lower court may not be set aside on appeal unless they are unsupported by substantial evidence.  The burden is upon the appellant to prove that the finding of fact was clearly erroneous.  A trial court finding is clearly erroneous when a reviewing court confirms that a decision that has been arrived, is contrary to the evidence at hand.[ii] The clearly erroneous rule governs findings of fact in trial courts on:

  • the significance of documentary evidence;
  • the factual meaning of contract provisions; and
  • the intention of parties.[iii]

However, in reviewing issue of law, the appellate court is free of compelling procedures followed in the review of factual issues.  However, a constitutional issue can be raised for the first time in appeal.

[i] Torres-Lazarini v. United States, 523 F.3d 69 (1st Cir. P.R. 2008)

[ii] Jones Apparel Group, Inc. v. Miller & Rhoads, Inc., 1992 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14418 (E.D. Va. Mar. 25, 1992)

[iii] Reliance Steel Products Co. v. National Fire Ins. Co., 880 F.2d 575 (1st Cir. R.I. 1989)

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