Interlocutory Proceedings: Everything You Need to Know

Interlocutory proceedings are court hearings that focus on a specific matter related to a trial during the life cycle of the case.3 min read

Interlocutory proceedings are court hearings that focus on a specific matter related to a trial during the life cycle of the case.

Interlocutory proceedings focus on the rights of the parties regarding the trial including issues such as applications for extension of time, ordering a party to follow the court's directives or applications for temporary relief before the final decision. Generally, the courts conduct interlocutory proceedings when a Court of Appeal needs to decide a Question of Law before proceeding with a trial or to protect the rights of a person or property before reaching a final judgment on a lawsuit.

When Courts Grant Interlocutory Orders

Courts generally refrain from giving interlocutory injunctions except where the prevailing circumstances of the lawsuit require immediate action. This is why state and federal appellate courts limit their use to avoid wasting time and resources.

Generally, only cases that have been decided at trial court go to the appellate courts. Once the trial court judge delivers a final decision on a case, the court of appeal assumes jurisdiction over the matter. The trial judge allows interlocutory appeals when the court establishes that a critical question of law which can affect the final decision on the case requires further interpretation.

Interlocutory Appeals Act

The Interlocutory Appeals Act (28 U.S.C.A. § 1292), gives the appellate courts the jurisdictional powers to review interlocutory orders. Under the act, appellate courts are qualified to review interlocutory orders in civil lawsuits where the trial judge has identified a doubtful question of law whose resolution will help the court in reaching a final decision over the matter.

To review interlocutory orders, state Courts of Appeal follow statutes and court rules of appellate procedure. The judgment of an appellate court after reviewing an interlocutory order is final; delivering an interlocutory judgment effectively terminates that aspect of the case. For this reason, any part of a case over which the appellate court has delivered an interlocutory injunction cannot be revisited by the trial court if the case returns to the trial court.

Interlocutory orders are often delivered in a divorce case to protect a spouse from injury or irreparable harm before the court delivers its final decision on the matter. For example, an interlocutory order may compel a spouse to pay a certain amount of money each week before the court resolves the issue or Child Support or Alimony. This way, the spouse and children will not suffer due to lack of finances during the trial proceedings.

The courts can also use interlocutory orders to prevent a party from selling or foreclosing a property if another party filed for a stay of action on the issue. In this scenario, the court will issue an interlocutory order to stop the transfer of the property pending when it delivers its final verdict on the matter. Failure to stop the transfer can lead to irreparable harm and create problems with the legal title of the property if the court's judgment eventually favored the party fighting against the property transfer. In most cases, the court emphasizes its final decision, and interlocutory orders and appeals help to safeguard rights and promote the efficiency of the courts.

Interlocutory orders provide the following benefits:

  • Safeguard people's rights.
  • Help to prevent injury and irreparable harm.
  • Improves the efficiency of the courts.

The Position of The Supreme Court on Stays of Trial Court Proceedings

The position of the Illinois Supreme Court on issues of stays of trial court proceedings regarding interlocutory appeals by permission can be found in Supreme Court Rules 306 and 308, 166 Ill. 2d Rules 306, 308. However, the Supreme Court does not treat stays of trial court proceedings relating to interlocutory appeals as of right. While Supreme Court Rule 307 makes no pronouncements about stays of trial court proceedings, Supreme Court Rules 306 and 308 have authoritative guidelines regarding stays.

According to Rule 306, the trial court proceedings stays if the appellate court grants the petition and the appellate court may advise the petitioner to file a bond relevant to the issue where the necessity has been established. The implication is that when an appeal is permitted under rule 306, the trial court proceedings stays immediately. However, the appeals court may require the plaintiff to file an appropriate bond pending its final decision. According to Rule 308, filing or granting an appeal does not guarantee a stay of proceedings in the trial court, except where the trial court, appellate court or one of its judges delivers an order to that effect.

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