Is it true that the judge has to tell me the basis of the ruling after trial?

Appellate, Blog, Brad M. LaMorgese

By Brad LaMorgese

Yes it’s true.

After a trial, the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure allow either party to request what is called findings of fact and conclusions of law. The judge has to then specify in writing the facts that the judge found to be true and the conclusions of law that the judge made to arrive at the decision.  The facts must be based on the evidence presented to the judge at trial.

The timing of a request for findings is crucial, as it has to be done within 20 days from when the judge signed the judgment, and in some cases in family law, the findings must be requested sooner than that. So it is critical to consult a lawyer is soon is a ruling comes down; whether the ruling was just made by the judge orally or in writing.

The great thing about obtaining specific findings and conclusions from the judge is it will be the basis of support for the ruling if it goes to appeal. On appeal, the justices of the Court of Appeals would look at the evidence found by the judge and compare it to the record and look at the legal conclusions made by the judge to determine whether the judge made the correct decision.

A failure to timely request findings means that any possible reason to support the judgment is deemed in its favor even if that was not really the basis of the judge’s decision. So a failure to require findings is not necessarily fatal to an appeal, but it is helpful to timely request findings of fact and conclusions of law when considering an appeal because then the trial judge will have to be specific on what facts the judge found, and what legal conclusions the judge made.  And that could make an appeal a lot easier.

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