What Are Appeals and How Do They Work?

An appeal is a legal process in which the losing party in a case asks a different court to rehear the case and reconsider the original decision. Once a trial court comes to a decision, the party that lost may bring an appeal with the appellate court. This court has the power to overrule the original decision of the trial court based on a review of the facts of the case. An appellate court may only look at whether the trial court made any legal mistakes and whether this changed the court’s final decision. An appellate court can reverse a decision or order a new trial.

What an Appeal Is and Is Not

An appeal is not a brand new trial with a new judge or jury. The appellate court does not review your case from the beginning to form its own opinion. Instead, it only reviews the trial court’s decision. It only looks at whether the trial court made some type of mistake during proceedings that may have jeopardized the fairness of the trial or otherwise changed the judgment of the case.

An appeal will not allow you or your lawyer to present new evidence, new witnesses or present your case before a new judge. It is not enough for the justices of the appellate court to disagree with the decision the trial court judge or jury made. The appellate court may only reverse a decision or grant a new trial if it discovers a legal mistake that was so critical it influenced at least part of the original case’s outcome.

How Do You File an Appeal?

If you lost a case on the trial court level, you may be able to ask the appellate court to review the decision. You must be an aggrieved individual to qualify for an appeal. If the trial court makes a decision that is not in your favor, and this will affect your legal rights or cost you money, you can work with your lawyer to file an appeal. Hiring an appeals lawyer can be important if your current attorney does not handle appeals. Filing a claim with the appellate court is an entirely different process than the initial trial. Use a lawyer with experience with appeals for your best odds of success.

You will have a limited time in which to file an appeal – usually 30 days from receiving the trial court’s decision. You or your lawyer must file the initial Notice of Appeal document by your deadline. You may receive an extension to file if your California Trial attorney files a timely motion requesting a new trial, asking to vacate the judgment, asking for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or asking to reconsider an appealable order. Although it is not mandatory to hire a lawyer for an appeal, it could significantly help you with the legal process.

What to Expect During an Appeal in California

The appeals process will look different and have separate rules for criminal cases versus civil cases. Most civil appeals involve the lawyer handling all paperwork and presenting the facts of the case, along with relevant laws, to the appellate court in the form of a legal brief. The appellate court justices will review the brief and decide to affirm or reverse the trial court’s decision. The appeals process does not involve a brand new court trial. Ask an appeals attorney to review a recent court trial’s decision, then retain the lawyer to handle the appeals process if he or she believes you have grounds to do so and accepts your case. Your lawyer can then take over the legal process.

If you decide to abandon your appeal early in the legal process, you will file a written abandonment or stipulation for abandonment form with the appellate section at the Superior Court. This will effectively dismiss the appeal. If the clerk has already filed your appeal, you will need to serve a written request to dismiss with the Court of Appeal. This court may then choose to accept or deny your request. For more information about the appeals process in California, contact an attorney.