Civil case decisions, like most trial court decisions, are subject to review by an appeals court or appellate court. When a civil court decision is made and one of the parties do not agree with the decision, they may file to appeal the decision. The appeals court’s job is to review what happened and determine if there are any present errors in interpreting the law. This process happens regardless if the decision was the result of a judge’s order or if it was decided by a jury. If the appeals court determines there was an error or errors, the appeals court will reverse the decision.
What Happens in Appeals Court?
If your attorney has filed an appeal on your behalf, he or she will then prepare and submit briefs to the court making your argument for an appeal. If a reason is compelling enough, the court could also agree to allow oral arguments on the appeal. Despite being granted the first appeal, if the appeals court renders a decision that is still undesirable, the next appeal option is limited mostly because, in recent decades, the number of parties filing appeals has spiked. Too many appeals requests have clogged courts in both state and federal venues leading to new rules aimed at reducing appeals.
How Does an Appeal Differ from a Trial?
Like a trial, both parties must present their cases to the court in an appeal. However, contrary to a trial, there is no jury, nor are there any witnesses or evidence such as in a trial. The court listens to the facts as they were presented in the court trial unless new facts reflect a different result.
There is one judge in a trial and in an appeals court, a panel made up of several judges listen to the case facts. The actual number of judges depends on the jurisdiction. Courts may have three judges and up to a dozen. Supreme courts—both state and federal—have from five to nine judges that are called justices to help decide case appeals.
The Power of the Appellate Brief
If you are filing an appeal, the case is often won or lost based on your appellate brief. Both sides prepare a brief, the winning side will argue why the decision should stand. The losing side will argue why the decision was faulty and offer specifics about how the law was applied incorrectly resulting in the faulty decision. Cases similar to your case will be cited in the brief and sometimes when permitted by the court, short oral arguments are allowed. During this period, the panel of judges may ask questions to the attorneys to clarify points or ask for additional facts.
The Court “Record”
Appeals court record is a compilation of everything that happened during the trial. Pleadings, pre-trial motions, transcripts of the trial, evidential exhibits, post-trial motions, and any interaction with the judge that occurred “on the record” are a part of the Court Record. If vital evidence did not make it into the court record or if your attorney failed to object to points that harmed your case, there is no additional opportunity to insert that information in the appeals process. All that is reviewed in the appeals process is exactly what happened during the trial and nothing more.
The Appeals Court Results
When the person who initiated the appeals process loses the appeal, he or she may take their case to the state supreme court or even the U.S. Supreme Court. Here, these courts weigh the proposed cases and decide whether to accept the case to hear. Hundreds of cases, perhaps thousands of cases never see the light of day in supreme court. In many instances, the justices’ decision to take the case hinges on whether the case reveals gaps in the law. The Federal high court of Supreme Court can only take on cases that hint at a constitutional issue or a flaw in federal law. These proposed cases have already been reviewed which impacts the justices’ decision to hear the case. The thought here is that because the case had already been weighed, the decisions are likely not biased or considered a conflict of the law.
Levoritz Law has been successfully assisting clients in civil appeals for years. We have extensive experience in the appeals courts and we can help preserve your rights in the process. Learn more by scheduling your consultation with our attorneys today.