Lawsuits and other legal proceedings (for example, arbitration and mediation) are often incredibly expensive for companies -- regardless of the outcome, simply pursuing or defending a matter can be prohibitively expensive for many companies. Once the trial court makes an initial decision -- whether on one element of the matter early on in the process or on all claims involved -- litigants generally have the ability to appeal to a higher court. Building a successful appeal generally requires the help of an experienced litigator with a specialized appeals practice. If you are considering appealing a verdict, talking to an appellate lawyer in the Priori network can help you assess your position and likelihood of success.
About Appellate Law
What is an Appellate Attorney?
An appellate attorney handles the process of appealing a judgement of a lower court. These cases are evaluated in an appellate court--at the federal level, the Circuit Courts and Supreme Court. Not all litigators handle appellate matters as they typically require different experience than regular litigation. Typically, unlike trial courts, which address issues of both law and fact, appellate courts concern themselves with law only and review facts only if there was a clear error.
Purpose of Appeals
Appeals are not intended to give parties to a lawsuit or defendants a chance to simply complain about a ruling they didn’t like or retry the same matter in an alternate forum. Instead, the appeal provides an opportunity to argue that the lower court made a mistaken legal conclusion or followed improper procedure. That means that only where a mistake in a judge’s decision on the legal issues of the case is in question will an appeal be heard. An appeal doesn’t retry the entire case, but rather simply focuses on the specific issues of law brought up by the appellate argument.
When Can I File an Appeal?
In a civil case, either party can file an appeal if they disagree with the ruling. In a criminal case, only the defendant can appeal a guilty verdict, because of double jeopardy rules. In bankruptcy cases or other decisions involving federal administrative agencies, the person who brought the case can appeal. In any case, whether or not the case will be heard depends on the merits of the arguments in the appellate briefs, as decided by the appellate judges.
The Appellate Process
In order to appeal a court decision, the appellant must first submit a notice of appeal that they will be disputing the court’s decision and on what grounds. After this, the parties must submit written briefs explaining their arguments for or against overturning the decision. Sometimes in the cases of civil suits, these can include issues to be appealed by both parties.
While some appeals are decided based on these briefs alone, many cases include oral arguments in front of a panel of appellate judges. In these cases, each party’s attorney has a limited amount of time to present their case, and the judges have the opportunity to ask any questions they may have. After oral argument, the appellate judges meet to discuss the case and subsequently issue a decision.
An appeal that is not immediately dismissed by the appeals court has three possible outcomes:
The ruling can be overturned by the appeals court with a modified or corrected verdict.
The ruling can be upheld, ending the appeals process in most cases.
The ruling can be sent back to the lower court for a new hearing or reconsideration.
Can I take my case to the Supreme Court?
It’s not particularly likely. While litigants may appeal to the Supreme Court following a determination at the appellate level, appeals to the Supreme Court are not as of right -- the court takes very small number of cases each year.