An interlocutory appeal is made during a court trial and asks an appellate court to review an aspect of the case before the trial has concluded. In the United States, such an appeal can be made if extraordinary circumstances exist that would prevent the case from being properly decided if the appeal wasn't heard. Although most courts are reluctant to grant these appeals because they slow down the process of adjudicating the case, interlocutory appeals are necessary when a question of law arises during the case that must be decided before the trial can proceed. Once the appeal has been decided by the appellate court, then the original case can continue to its conclusion.
In most circumstances, appeals are not made until the conclusion of the original case. There are instances when a question of law cannot be decided by the court hearing the trial. If this question is integral to the outcome of the case and immediate rule on the law in question could hasten the completion of the trial, the presiding judge may issue an interlocutory order to an appellate court. The appellate court has the authority to review the order and can decide if hearing the appeal is necessary.
Courts will try to avoid issuing an interlocutory appeal during a case if the matter in question is less than integral to the proceedings. Such constant appeals would make litigating the case difficult and would delay the processing of justice. In certain situations, courts run the risk of an ultimate decision being appealed and possibly overturned if an interlocutory appeal is ignored when one is actually warranted.
Once the appellate court opts to hear an interlocutory appeal and then decides on the matter that was the subject of the appeal, their decision on that matter of the case is final. That means that no other appellate court can reverse the decision on that part of the case. The original case may still be subject to appeal at its conclusion, but the interlocutory part cannot be changed again.
Interlocutory orders are more common in certain types of cases. In divorce proceedings, judges may issue interlocutory orders to make sure that child support payments are made during the time that the case is under review pending the ultimate decision. When a person's property is at stake during a case, a judge may issue an interlocutory order, also known as an injunction, to stop the proceedings causing the problem until a final ruling on the action can be made. These orders may not lead to an appellate court being involved, but they are actions that the judge deems must be taken even before the case is concluded.