Everything You Need to Know About the Legal Appeal Process

One of the most popular misconceptions regarding appeals is that every case is appealed. There are not many cases in which the losing party is automatically granted the right to appeal. Generally, a legal basis must be established for the appeal. This needs to be some error in the trial, rather than just a losing party disliking the particular verdict.

When the case is tried in civil court, either of the involved parties are able to appeal the case to a higher court. However, in criminal cases, the defendant is the only party who has a right to appeal a conviction in most states.

There are certain states that allow the prosecution to have a limited right of appeal. However, prosecution-led appeals usually happen before the trial rather than afterward. Appeals from the prosecution after the trial are not permitted, because the United States Constitution has a law prohibiting double jeopardy. Double jeopardy refers to a person being tried twice for the same crime.

When a criminal defendant’s conviction is handed down by a state court rather than a federal court, the defendant has another safeguard. After they’ve exhausted all of their state-level appeal options, they have the ability to file a habeas corpus writ to the federal courts. This writ must show that federally protected constitutional rights have been violated. A federal court can review trials that happened in state courts, and in some cases overturn the verdict.

An appeal is not the same as a new trial. Because an appeal isn’t a trial, an appeals court is unlikely to admit any new evidence or new witness testimony. Instead, a judge will review the facts of the case and the trial. Generally, appeals in both criminal and civil cases are predicated on the argument that either the trial’s procedure or the judge’s law interpretation was incorrect.

The Procedure for Appeals

When an appeal occurs, the party requesting the appeal is referred to as the appellant or the petitioner. The other involved party is referred to as the respondent or appellee. To institute the appeal process, the appellant must file a notice of appeal. When this filing is completed, there is a specific time period during which an argument for the appeal must be filed. After this, the respondent has a specified amount of time to answer the brief. In some cases, the appellant will respond to the appellee’s brief through a second brief of their own.

There are some cases in which appeals courts will make the decision based on these briefs alone. In other cases, oral arguments will be made to the judge reviewing the case. It’s common for one of the parties to request oral arguments, or for the court to ask that oral arguments be presented. Oral arguments are completed by the attorneys of both parties. The attorneys will also answer any questions that the judges pose.

The United States Supreme Court sets aside about an hour for the oral argument of the majority of cases. This means that the lawyers from both parties have a half hour to make their case and answer follow-up questions. When the federal court of appeals is involved, lawyers usually have a shorter time period ranging from ten to fifteen minutes.

The court of appeals is the court that determines whether any errors occurred when the law was applied through the lower court’s ruling. That said, not every law error will be considered grounds for a decision reversal. Sometimes, harmless errors don’t interfere with the rights of the involved parties to have a fair trial.

After the case has been presented and all arguments made, the judges of the appeals court will discuss the case in a private conference. In many cases, the appellate court will issue the decision in a written format, especially if the decision establishes new precedents. One judge will write the opinion. This opinion might be drafted several times before receiving the majority approval of the court.

If a judge disagrees with the majority opinion, they have a chance to issue a dissenting opinion. If a judge agrees with the majority opinion, but disagrees with the majority’s reasoning, they might write a concurring opinion.