Appeals

Overview

The appellate system reviews trial court decisions and judgments. Appeals are generally heard by three-judge panels and consider whether any error in the trial court necessitates a new trial or other change to the lower court’s decision. When an appeal occurs, the person requesting the appeal (the appellant) asks a higher court to take a look at what was done in the original trial and to determine whether the outcome was proper based on court rules and application of the law.  An extensive briefing process and sometimes an oral argument are what an attorney must be able to engage in while representing a client in an appeal. This is very different than trial practice. Having represented individuals and companies in over a dozen appeals in California and Florida, Mr. Cooley is well-equipped to navigate more academic practice area of the law and assist you with your appeal. 

Notice of Appeal

The party seeking review of the trial court’s decision files a Notice of Appeal. With limited exceptions, appeals are taken only from the final judgment or order. The time limits to file the Notice differ between states, so it is important to have a person that knows the appellate rules of your state assist you. The timely filing of the Notice is critical. Failure to do so is fatal, and it is one of those very few bells that you simply cannot unring.   

Preparation of the Record

After the Notice of Appeal is filed, the trial court clerk prepares the record.  The appellant (party asking for the review) must ensure that the record comprises all the transcripts and documents it wants included. The party on the other side (the appellee) also gets an opportunity to supplement the record to ensure it has all the relevant information from the trial court. 

Appellate Briefing

The briefs submitted by your attorney and the other party’s legal representatives are the primary items that are considered by appellate judges. Accordingly, it is imperative that your brief present legal arguments about the correctness or errors (depending on your position) of the court’s interpretation of the law or its application of the law to the facts of the case.

Oral Argument

In some appeals, either party may request the court to allow an oral argument before the judges. If oral argument is granted, the attorneys for both sides appear before a panel of judges to present argument and answer any questions the judges may have.

Appellate Court’s Decision

The final step in an appeal occurs when the court issues its decision. In some but not all cases, the court will explain the reasons for arriving at the decision. This is usually the end of the line, as there are very limited circumstances that allow for cases to be appealed to a higher court.