Website Survey

Lawhelp.org/DCWashington DC

Appeals and Motions for Reconsideration in Landlord-Tenant Cases

Authored By: D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center
Read this in:
Amharic / አማርኛ
Spanish / Español
French / Français

Information

NOTE: These frequently asked questions are for people who do not agree with decisions made by Judges in their cases. These questions do not talk about how to handle default judgments or dismissals entered because you missed a court hearing. Please click here for information on default judgments. Please click here for information on dismissals.

If you need more information about your legal rights or want help finding a lawyer to represent you in your case, you can click here (for tenants) or here (for landlords), or come to the Landlord Tenant Resource Center, located at:

D.C. Superior Court Building B
510 4th Street, N.W., Room #208
9:15 AM - 12:00 Noon, Monday - Friday, except legal holidays.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

(Click on any question below to go directly to that question. To return to the table of contents, click on the "Back to Top" link at the end of each answer.)

  1. I do not agree with the judge's decision. What can I do?
  2. Should I file a Motion for Reconsideration or an Appeal?
  3. I cannot afford the filing fees for a Motion for Reconsideration or an Appeal. What can I do?
  4. What happens to my Appeal or Motion for Reconsideration if I move out, get evicted, or pay everything that the judge says I owe?
  5. What is the deadline for filing a Motion for Reconsideration?
  6. How do I file a Motion for Reconsideration?
  7. What will the judge do after I file a Motion for Reconsideration?
  8. What happens to my case while I am waiting for the judge to make a decision?
  9. What is an Appeal?
  10. What kinds of decisions can I appeal?
  11. When do I have to file my Appeal?
  12. How do I file an Appeal?
  13. How do I request transcripts for my Appeal?
  14. When do I need to file a Brief?
  15. What is a Brief?
  16. What is an Appendix and do I need one?
  17. Will I have a hearing?
  18. How long does it take for the Court of Appeals to make a decision?
  19. What is a stay?
  20. If I need a stay, when should I ask for it?
  21. How do I ask for a stay?
  22. What can I do if my request for a stay is denied?

1. I do not agree with the judge's decision. What can I do?

There are usually two things you can do if you think the judge made a mistake:

  • You can file a Motion for Reconsideration with the judge and ask the judge to change his or her own decision. (Motions for Reconsideration are called Motions to Alter or Amend or Motions for Relief from Judgments or Sanctions in the Court rules.)
  • In some cases, you can file an Appeal. If you file an Appeal, you are asking the D.C. Court of Appeals to look at the judge's decision and to see whether the judge followed the law or not.

Remember, if you disagree with a default judgment or dismissal that was entered because you missed a court hearing, you should look at the Frequently Asked Questions for Tenants or Frequently Asked Questions for Landlords.

Back to Top

2. Should I file a Motion for Reconsideration or an Appeal?

It depends. In some cases, you can file both a Motion for Reconsideration and, if the judge does not change his or her mind, you can then file an Appeal. After you file an Appeal, the Judge usually cannot reconsider his or her own decision. If you aren't sure what to do, you should probably speak with a lawyer.

  • Reasons why you might want to file a Motion for Reconsideration:
    • You cannot appeal every decision that a judge makes. If you cannot file an Appeal, you can still ask the Judge to reconsider what he or she decided.
    • Some decisions cannot be appealed at all, but the judge who made the decision can still change his or her mind.
    • Other decisions cannot be appealed until the whole case is over, and you may want to see if the judge will change his or her mind before then.
    • You may want to file a Motion for Reconsideration, even if you can file an Appeal, because it can be hard to handle an Appeal if you do not have a lawyer.
    • Motions for Reconsideration cost less to file if you are not eligible to have the filing fees waived by the Court.
    • Motions for Reconsideration are usually decided more quickly than Appeals.
  • Reasons why you might want to file an Appeal:
    • You may want to file an Appeal if you missed the deadline for filing a Motion for Reconsideration.
    • You also might have a good reason to believe that the Judge is not going to change his or her mind. If that is the case, it may be a waste of time to file a Motion for Reconsideration before filing an Appeal.

Back to Top

3. I cannot afford the filing fees for a Motion for Reconsideration or an Appeal. What can I do?

  • If the filing fees for a Motion or an Appeal will be a financial hardship for you, you can file an Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Costs, Fees, or Security. You might hear the clerks or lawyers call this application an IFP or In Forma Pauperis.
  • If you receive public benefits (TANF, POWER, SSI, or GAC), the judge will generally grant your application. Otherwise, you will need to explain to the judge why the filing fees will be a financial hardship.
  • If you are filing an Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Costs or Fees, you need to file your papers in the Landlord and Tenant Branch Clerk's Office, located in D.C. Superior Court Building B, 510 4th Street, NW, Room 110. You must give your papers to the clerk before 12:00 noon so that you can take your papers in front of the judge on the same day. The clerk will need to notarize your Application, so be sure to bring a photo ID with you.
  • If you are filing an Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Costs, Fees, or Security, you need to file your papers in the Landlord and Tenant Branch Clerk's Office, located in D.C. Superior Court Building B, 510 4th Street, NW, Room 110. You must give your papers to the clerk before 12:00 noon so that you can take your papers in front of the judge on the same day. If you are filing an Appeal, and the judge grants your Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Costs, Fees, or Security you will also be able to request the transcripts from your hearings in front of the trial judge without paying the fees. See "How do I request transcripts for my Appeal?", below, for more information about requesting transcripts.
  • If you have already been given permission to file papers in your current case without paying the filing fees, then you can file for your Motion or Appeal for free. You do not need to file a new Application. You need a judge's permission to file without paying the fees in each case against you, so even if you had permission to file for free in an earlier case, you will need to ask for it again in each new case.

Back to Top

4. What happens to my Appeal or Motion for Reconsideration if I move out, get evicted, or pay everything that the judge says I owe?

  • In most cases, you can continue with your Appeal or Motion for Reconsideration.
  • If you win your Motion for Reconsideration or Appeal, you may be able to move back into the house or apartment or get back money you have paid to the Landlord.
  • You may want to speak to an attorney about your case to see what rights you will have if you win your Appeal or Motion for Reconsideration.

Back to Top

5. What is the deadline for filing a Motion for Reconsideration?

  • If you need to stop the case from moving forward or stop an eviction from occurring while the judge is deciding your Motion for Reconsideration, you should file your Motion within 3 business days after the judgment. To learn how to stop the case from moving forward or to stop an eviction from occurring while the Judge is deciding your Motion, see "What is a Stay?", below.
  • Otherwise, a Motion for Reconsideration usually must be filed within 10 business days (not counting Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays) of the decision that you want the judge to reconsider.
  • In some cases, you can file a Motion for Reconsideration even if more time has passed. If more than 10 days have passed since the decision was issued, you should talk to a lawyer to see if you can still file a Motion for Reconsideration.

Back to Top

6. How do I file a Motion for Reconsideration?

  • You should file your Motion for Reconsideration with the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office, located in D.C. Superior Court Building B, 510 4th Street, NW, Room 110.
  • When you file your Motion, you should write or type the name of the judge who made the decision you disagree with just below the case number on the top of first page of the Motion.
  • In most cases, the Motion will be decided by the same judge who made the decision that you disagree with. You usually cannot ask another judge to review the decision.
  • Be sure to include every reason that you think the judge should change his or her mind, because you may not have a chance to have a hearing in front of the judge.
  • If you would like the judge to hold a hearing so that you can explain your case in person to the judge, you must write or type on your Motion "Oral Hearing Requested." It is up to the judge whether to hold a hearing. The judge is usually allowed to make a decision based on the papers that you file and the papers filed by the other parties in the case.
  • You must give a copy of your Motion to the attorneys for the other parties in your case. If any of the other parties do not have attorneys, give the motion to the parties directly. You can hand-deliver the motion yourself or you can ask the clerk to mail it for you.

Back to Top

7. What will the judge do after I file a Motion for Reconsideration?

  • In most cases, the judge must give the other party at least 14 business days to file a written opposition to your Motion.
  • The judge is not required to make a decision within any specific amount of time.
  • The judge may decide to hold a hearing before he or she makes a decision, but the judge is usually not required to hold a hearing.
  • Usually, you will receive a written copy of the judge's decision in the mail.

Back to Top

8. What happens to my case while I am waiting for the judge to make a decision?

  • Filing a Motion for reconsideration does not stop the judge's order from being carried out or stop the rest of the case from going forward.
  • If you are a Defendant/Tenant and you are asking the judge to reconsider giving the Plaintiff/Landlord a judgment, the Plaintiff/Landlord can still evict you even though you have asked the judge to change his or her mind.
  • If the judge has ordered you to do something, you must do it or you may be held in contempt of court or lose the case just because you disobeyed the judge's order.
  • If you want to stop the judge's order from having an effect until the judge reconsiders his or her decision, you must get a stay (click for more information).

Back to Top

9. What is an Appeal?

  • An Appeal is a request that the D.C. Court of Appeals review the judge's decision.
  • A group of three judges from the D.C. Court of Appeals will decide whether the judge in Landlord and Tenant Court made a mistake that hurt your case.
  • The Court of Appeals does not conduct a new trial. The Court of Appeals will not listen to witnesses or look at new evidence. The Court of Appeals will only look at what happened in Landlord and Tenant Court and decide whether the judge followed the law and made the right decision based on what happened in Landlord and Tenant Court.
  • If the Court of Appeals finds that the judge in Landlord and Tenant Court made a mistake that hurt your case, the Court of Appeals will send the case back to Landlord and Tenant Court. The Court of Appeals will give the Landlord and Tenant Court instructions on what should happen next.

Back to Top

10. What kinds of decisions can I appeal?

  • Usually, you can only appeal the final judgment in your case.
  • Final judgments usually end a case. In Landlord-Tenant cases, a final judgment usually decides whether the landlord has the right to evict the tenant. Your order might be final, even if you have to come back to court to decide who gets the money in the court registry or to make sure that repairs are being made.
  • Sometimes you can appeal other decisions that the judge makes before the end of the case. These are called interlocutory appeals, which just means that it is an appeal filed before the case is over.
  • For example, you can appeal an order entering or refusing to enter a protective order that requires the tenant to pay rent to the court registry during the case. You can also appeal an order that requires you do something or stop doing something, such as orders that require a landlord to make repairs or orders that require a tenant to give the landlord access to the apartment.
  • If the judge orders something that you do not agree with but it is not a proper interlocutory appeal, you can still file an appeal after you get a final judgment if the judge's decision hurt your case.
  • If you aren't sure if you can appeal a decision in your case, you should speak to an attorney.

Back to Top

11. When do I have to file my Appeal?

  • If you need to stop the case from moving forward or stop an eviction from occurring while you are appealing, you should file the Appeal within 3 business days after the judgment you are appealing.
  • To learn how to stop the case from moving forward or to stop an eviction from occurring while you Appeal, see "How do I ask for a stay?", below.
  • Otherwise, you must file an Appeal within 30 days of the decision that you are appealing.
  • In some cases, if you file a Motion for Reconsideration or certain other types of motions, your time for filing an Appeal is extended until after the Judge rules on the Motion for Reconsideration.
  • If you are planning to wait more than 30 days to file your appeal, talk to a lawyer first to make sure that you do not miss the deadline.
  • If you miss the deadline for filing an Appeal and you have a good reason why you missed it, you can file a Motion and ask the Judge for more time to file an Appeal.
  • You must file your Motion asking for more time within 30 days of the deadline that you missed. Your Motion must explain why you missed the deadline for filing an Appeal. The Motion is filed in the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office, and you must file your Notice of Appeal (see below) along with the Motion.
  • If you missed the deadline, the judge will only allow you to appeal if he or she agrees that there was a good reason why you missed the deadline.

Back to Top

12. How do I file an Appeal?

There is a filing fee of $100, unless a judge approves an Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Costs, Fees, or Security.

  • You file an Appeal by filing a form called a Notice of Appeal in the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office. The Notice of Appeal is a very simple two-page form. To get your appeal started, you only need to file this form, along with a copy of the judgment or order you are appealing. You can get a Notice of Appeal form here.
  • As soon as you file your Notice of Appeal, you should make arrangements to get a copy of the transcript (keep reading for more information).
  • This is usually all that you need to do until the Court of Appeals tells you to file a Brief.
  • Make sure that you tell the Court of Appeals if your mailing address changes so that you get any notices they send to you.
  • Make sure that you read any notices you get from the Court of Appeals. Ask a lawyer to help you if you do not understand what you are supposed to do.

Back to Top

13. How do I request transcripts for my Appeal?

  • If the decision you are appealing was made after a hearing in front of a judge, then you need to request the transcripts from the hearing. A transcript is a word-for-word record of everything that was said in the courtroom during the hearing in front of the judge.
  • If a Judge has approved an Application to Proceed Without Prepayments of Costs, Fees, or Security, then you need to file a Motion for Appeal Transcript.
    • You should file this Motion in the Court Reporting Division of D.C. Superior Court in the main courthouse at 500 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Room 5500, Washington, D.C. 20001.
    • File the Motion immediately after you file the Notice of Appeal. You may want to speak to a lawyer about what to write in your Motion for Appeal Transcript.
    • You can download the Motion for Appeal Transcript here.
  • If you are paying the filing fees for the Appeal, then you must request transcripts no later than 10 days after filing the Notice of Appeal.
    • To make your transcript request, you must visit the Court Reporting Division of D.C. Superior Court in the main courthouse at 500 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Room 5500, Washington, D.C. 20001.
    • You will be required to make a deposit of one-half of the estimated cost of the transcript. You must make the deposit with cash or money order.

Back to Top

14. When do I need to file a Brief?

The Court of Appeals will send you an Order that gives you deadlines for filing your Brief.

Back to Top

15. What is a Brief?

  • The Brief is a paper that you file with the Court of Appeals, explaining exactly what mistakes you think the judge made in your case and why you think the judge did not follow the law.
  • The Brief must be no longer than 50 pages and you must file the original brief, with your signature, and three photocopies with the Clerk of the Court of Appeals by the deadline in the Order.
  • The Clerk of the Court of Appeals is located in the main courthouse at 500 Indiana Ave., NW, Room 6000, Washington, D.C. 20001.
  • You must also send a copy of the Brief to the attorneys representing the other parties in your case, or to the parties directly if they do not have attorneys.
  • The legal questions in each case are different, and your brief will need to explain the facts and legal questions in your case. Even though you cannot use these briefs in your case, you can look at the briefs posted on the Legal Aid Society's website if you want to see what a brief written by a lawyer looks like.
  • You will need to write a Brief even if you do not have a lawyer representing you in your Appeal. You may be able to find a lawyer who will help you write the Brief, even if he or she is not going to represent you in your Appeal. Click here for a list of organizations that may be able to help you.

Back to Top

16. What is an Appendix and do I need one?

  • The Appendix is an extra section at the end of a Brief that makes it easier for the Court of Appeals to understand what happened in Landlord and Tenant Court. The Appendix is made up of records from the Landlord and Tenant Court case.
  • If you are not paying the filing for your appeal because a judge has given you permission to proceed without prepayment of costs, then you do not need to include an Appendix unless you choose to.
    • Instead, you must include with your brief four (4) copies of the judge's explanation for the decision you are appealing.
    • The judge's explanation might be something the judge wrote or it might be something the judge said in court. If it is something that the judge said in court, then you must include four (4) copies of the transcript.
    • If you want, you can also include four (4) copies of anything else from the court file or copies of transcripts that will help the Court of Appeals make a decision.
    • You must also send a copy of these papers to the attorneys representing the other parties in your case, or to the parties directly if they do not have attorneys.
  • If you are paying the filing fees for your appeal, you must include an Appendix with your Brief. Court of Appeals Rule 30 explains the exact requirements for the Appendix, but it must include copies of
    • the docket entries from the Landlord and Tenant Court case,
    • any papers filed with in Landlord and Tenant Court that the Judge looked at to make the decision you are appealing and any written opinions,
    • copies of the judgment, order, or decision you are appealing, and
    • any other parts of the court file or transcripts that you want the Court of Appeals to see.
    • If you are required to file an Appendix, be sure to look at Court of Appeals Rule 30 or talk to a lawyer about the exact procedure you must follow.
    • You can download the Court of Appeals Rules here.

Back to Top

17. Will I have a hearing?

  • It depends.
  • Sometimes, the Court of Appeals decides that it needs to hear from the parties before it can make a decision. If so, it will schedule the case for a hearing on the Regular Calendar. The hearing is called an Oral Argument.
  • If the Court of Appeals doesn't think that a hearing is necessary, it will schedule your case on the Summary Calendar. If your case is put on the Summary Calendar, you can request an Oral Argument by filing a notice with the Court of Appeals within 10 days after the calendaring notice is mailed to you.

Back to Top

18. How long does it take for the Court of Appeals to make a decision?

  • It depends, but Appeals usually take longer to decide than cases in Landlord and Tenant Court.
  • On average it takes about 1½ years between the time an appeal is filed and the time a written decision is issued. That is just an average, and your case could take more or less time.

Back to Top

19. What is a stay?

A stay is a court order that puts the order that you disagree with on hold.

Back to Top

20. If I need a stay, when should I ask for it?

You should ask for a stay as soon as possible. By acting quickly, you are showing the Court that you are serious about your Motion for Reconsideration or Appeal and that you are not just asking for a stay to drag out the case.

Back to Top

21. How do I ask for a stay?

  • If you are in danger of being evicted because the Plaintiff/Landlord has already filed a Writ of Restitution, you can file your request using a form provided by the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office, called an "Application for Stay of Execution of Writ of Restitution."
    • The Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office is located at 510 4th Street, N.W., Room 110, Washington, D.C. 20001.
    • On your application, you can explain that you do not want to be evicted because you are waiting for your Motion for Reconsideration or Appeal to be decided.
    • There is no filing fee for this Application.
    • The form should be filed in the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office no later than 2:00 p.m. on the day that you want to have your hearing in front of a judge. If your eviction is scheduled for the next day, you can file your application until 4:00 p.m.
    • The judge who decides whether you will get a stay may or may not be the same Judge who made the original decision in your case.
  • If you are in danger of some other type of immediate harm (but not being evicted), then you can file a Motion and call it an "Emergency Motion for a Stay."
    • There is a $10 filing fee for a Motion, unless a Judge approves an Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Costs, Fees, or Security.
    • The Motion should be filed in the Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office. The Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office is located at 510 4th Street, N.W., Room 110, Washington, D.C. 20001.
    • If you need to have a hearing on the same day that you are filing the Motion, you should file it with the Clerk no later than 2:00 p.m.
    • The judge who decides whether you will get a stay may or may not be the same Judge who made the original decision in your case.
  • If you want a stay but there is no emergency because nothing will happen as a result of the judge's order within the next 7-10days, then you can file a Motion and call it a "Motion for a Stay."
    • There is a $10 filing fee for a Motion, unless a Judge approves an Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Costs, Fees, or Security.
    • The Landlord and Tenant Clerk's Office is located at 510 4th Street, N.W., Room 110, Washington, D.C. 20001.
    • If your case was assigned to a judge in the Civil Actions Branch for a jury trial, and you are asking for a stay of the judgment from the jury or a decision that the assigned judge made, the Motion will usually be decided by the assigned judge.
      • When you file your Motion, you should write or type the name of the assigned judge just below the case number on the top of first page of the Motion.
      • Be sure to include every reason that you think the judge should change his or her mind, because you may not have a chance to have a hearing in front of the judge.
      • If you would like the judge to hold a hearing so that you can explain your case in person to the judge, you must write or type on your Motion "Oral Hearing Requested." It is up to the judge whether to hold a hearing. The judge is usually allowed to make a decision based on the papers that you file and the papers filed by the other parties in the case.
    • For cases that were not assigned to a judge in the Civil Actions Branch for a jury trial, you must schedule the Motion for a hearing in the Landlord and Tenant Court at 10:00 a.m. at least 7-10 calendar days after the motion will be filed. You must get the hearing date from the clerk. The judge who decides whether you will get a stay may or may not be the same judge who made the original decision in your case.
    • You must give a copy of your Motion to the attorneys for the other parties in your case. If any of the other parties do not have attorneys, give the motion to the parties directly. You can hand-deliver the motion yourself or you can ask the clerk to mail it for you.

Back to Top

22. What can I do if my request for a stay is denied?

  • If you filed an Appeal and the Judge in Landlord and Tenant Court will not give you a stay, you can file papers directly with the Clerk of the Court of Appeals and ask the Court of Appeals to give you a stay.
    • You should file your request for a stay as soon as possible and be sure to attach any papers that will help the Court of Appeals understand why they should give you a stay.
    • The Clerk of the Court of Appeals is located in the Historic Courthouse, 430 E Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001.
  • If there is a judgment for possession entered in a case that is about unpaid rent only, usually you can stop an eviction by paying all of the rent, court-approved late fees, and court costs that are due on the day that you make the payment before an eviction occurs. If you are not sure whether you can stop the eviction this way, you may want to talk to a lawyer before you try to make the payment.
  • If you cannot pay everything or if your case is not only about rent, you can try to negotiate an agreement with the Plaintiff/Landlord so that the Plaintiff/Landlord agrees not to evict you. If you do this, you should make sure that your agreement is in writing.
  • You may want to speak to a lawyer to see if there are any other options available to you.

Back to Top

Last Review and Update: Aug 01, 2011