A Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law is a written document from the trial court which can help make or break a case on appeal. Read this latest entry from The Bassett Firm to learn why it is important to request findings of facts and conclusions of law from the trial court and how to do so.
Findings of fact and conclusions of law lay out the court's rationale and the decisions it made in deciding a case from the bench. As the name implies, the document specifically lays out the court's findings regarding the controlling factual issues of a claim or defense, and then explains how the court used those facts to form the basis for its conclusions of law. It is important to obtain this information from the trial court because without it, the appellate court is left to guess what legal theory the trial court used to decide the case. This presents a barrier for a successful appeal as the appellate court will be less likely to challenge the trial court's judgment and may decide to just defer to the lower court's decision.
Obtaining Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law is not difficult, but it does require that you follow the proper procedures. Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 296 allows a party in any case tried in a district or county court without a jury to request that the trial court state in writing its findings of fact and conclusions of law. The request must be filed with the court within twenty days after the judgment is signed, and the request must be served on all other parties in the case. Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law may also be requested after other proceedings such as a sanctions judgment, but in those other situations, it is up to the trial court's discretion whether to allow the request.
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law are crucial to a successful appeal. After the conclusion of a qualified proceeding, a party who is considering an appeal should err on the side of caution and request the document from the court. This way, whatever your client decides, you are prepared to represent them as effectively as possible on appeal.