All non-criminal appeals are classified as civil appeals. Like criminal cases, civil cases may be appealed by the losing party. An appeal is a request that a panel of three or more appellate court judges review the case. An appeal is not a new trial. An appeal is a review of the case, as it was presented to the trial court judge. The entire file, including transcripts of everything that was said in the trial court, and the physical evidence that was admitted into evidence, are forwarded to the appellate court judges for review. No new evidence may be presented to the appellate court judges. The appellate court will review not only whether the outcome was substantially supported by the evidence, but also whether the trial was fair. The appellate judges may review any and all of the decisions that were made by the trial court judge throughout the case. Whereas trials focus on factual disputes, appeals focus on legal disputes, i.e., disputes about what the law says, what it means, and how it applies to the case at hand. Mr. Walker is a civil appeals lawyer who provides effective representation in all kinds of civil appeals.
Cases tried in a federal trial are appealed to a federal appellate court. Cases tried in a state trial court are appealed to a state appellate court. In either cases, a notice of appeal must be filed within a relatively short period of time. If you miss the deadline, you will forfeit your right to appeal.
Both parties to the case may file written arguments (formally known as “briefs”) to support their side of the case in the appeals. The party that appealed files the initial brief, the other party may then file an answer brief, and the party that appealed may then file a reply brief. Generally speaking, the appellate judges will only consider the specific issues/problems raised by the party that appealed. They will not conduct an independent review of the entire case. If they notice a reversible error that was not raised, they will not consider that error. Working with a knowledgeable and experienced appellate attorney is critical to identifying and properly articulating viable issues/problems.
In most appeals, the parties are not granted an in-person hearing (formally known as “oral argument”). In most cases, the appellate judges make their decision based on the parties’ written arguments. The appellate judges decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether to grant an in-person hearing. When an in-person hearing is granted, the attorneys are not allowed to call any witnesses, or to present any evidence. The purpose of the in-person hearing is to give the appellate judges an opportunity to question the attorneys about the written arguments that they had submitted. If the appellate judges have no questions about the written questions that were submitted, they are unlikely to grant an in-person hearing.
After oral arguments, the judges meet privately, to vote on whether to reverse or to affirm the trial court’s decision. The majority rules. In most cases, one of the judges in the majority will then write an extensive explanation (formally know as an “opinion”) of their decision. The losing party may then ask the judges to reconsider their decision, if the losing party believes that the judges overlooked or misapprehended the facts or the law. The judges may then change their decision, or they may let it stand.
Mr. Walker is a civil appeals lawyer who provides effective representation in civil appeals in both state and federal courts. You may reach him at 407-647-7887.