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Understanding the Appeals Process

Many small businesses owners will likely find themselves enthralled in some form of litigation during your business’ tenure, and while most disputes will be resolved via settlement or trial court judgment. There is another aspect to litigation, that can be costly and tedious.

The appeals process is one that you and your lawyer may want to consider if you felt the outcome of your first trial was flawed.

What Is An Appeal?

An appeal is asking a higher court to change a decision made by a lower court.  Most civil business cases are initially heard at the trial court level. If the trial court rules in a way that a party believes is incorrect or mistaken, that party can file an appeal with the appellate court to request a new review of the evidence presented.

Appeal requests are not guaranteed as the appellate court may decide that they will not hear the case at all. The success of your request depends on the type of case being presented.

If the case is heard, the appellate court will take one of the following actions:

  • sustain (support) the trial court’s decision
  • overturn the trial court’s decision, or
  • remand the case to the trial court.

Remand means that the appellate court found justifiable concern in the evidence presented and as such, they would like the trial court to take another look.  

When Can You Appeal A Judgment?

Since an appeal amounts to asking one judge to say that another judge ruled incorrectly, the decision is not taken lightly. For this reason, there is often a higher standard set for appeal hearing. You can request an appeal once a final judgment has been issued and you believe the evidence you presented was sufficient to result in another ruling. The appellate court will follow two criteria when deciding your appeal:

  • Was a legal mistake made by the trial court?
  • Would the final ruling have changed if the mistake was not made?

If the appellate court concludes that the trial court made a legal mistake and that mistake had an effect on the final decision, then the appellate court may overturn the trial court’s decision.

It’s also important to note that an appeal is not a second trial.  You will be prohibited from presenting new evidence or information.  The court will only provide a review of the original ruling based on the initial evidence presented.

The Appeal Process

Hire an Appellate Attorney

One common mistake is that many people try to file their appeal without hiring a specialized appellate attorney. Appellate courts have strict rules regarding filing requirements, deadlines, and presentation of your case. Working with an attorney who understands the “ins and outs” of the appellate experience and who can ensure your appellate rights are preserved will maximize your chances of success.

File Your Notice of Appeal

When filing your notice, your attorney will make sure your trial court order is a final appealable order and keep track of all appeal deadlines.  If you miss these deadlines, an appellate court will not hear your case.

Prepare Your Evidentiary Record

As previously stated, an appeal is not a new trial. The appellate court will not hear any new evidence or testimony. The court will only consider the evidence, testimony, and documents that were filed with the trial court. A good attorney will make sure that any evidence that may be useful in the event of appeal is included in the record at trial.  

The appellate record will include all records from the docket and standard filings. Your attorney’s office will conduct a thorough review of the record to ensure a complete packet is submitted.

Draft Your Appellate Brief

The first step in presenting your case to the appellate court will be researching and writing an appellate brief. This is your only real chance to fully and thoroughly explain to the appellate court why the judgment should be reversed. As such, all pertinent arguments should be included in the first iteration of your brief, as you will likely not get another chance to elaborate.   

A good brief will be persuasive, well-researched, and to the point of whether the trial court erred.

Present Your Oral Argument

After the court has read you brief, you will be given the chance to give an oral argument, Oral arguments are the last step in the appeals process. This is your last chance to persuade the appellate court.

By this point, your attorney should know your case and applicable law very well and be prepared to present, answer questions, and argue on your behalf in a conversational manner.

What Should You Do Next?

If you are interested in learning more or speaking with an attorney at Capital Partners Law, there are plenty of ways to get in touch:

This article is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader nor should it be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact our firm.