Just the other day, a trial team handling post-appeal matters on remand wanted to know the significance of the “mandate” that the court of appeals had issued. As those lawyers recognized, the critical stages of an appeal are typically thought of as briefing, presenting oral argument, and then waiting for a decision from the court. Once the decision issues, and assuming no party intends to seek rehearing, the appeal is generally considered over. But it is not. Even then, the case remains under the appellate court’s jurisdiction until it is officially closed, usually weeks or months after the decision was rendered. That necessary, final step is marked by issuance of the mandate.
In that sense, the mandate is merely a ministerial chore that has little consequence other than formally ending the appeal. But the mandate is important to remember because it affects when, and what, further action may be taken in a case. Importantly, if the appellate relief includes proceedings on remand, the mandate defines the scope of those proceedings.
This refresher on the appellate mandate addresses its basic, procedural aspects, as well as the substantive consequences of its issuance.