What is Appeal Law?

Daphne Mallory
Daphne Mallory
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

Appeal law, or appellate law, pertains to cases up for appellate reviews in higher courts or the highest court in a region or nation. It is not descriptive of a type of law, but rather processes and procedures used by appellate courts to determine whether laws were correctly applied in the lower courts. Civil and criminal cases can be appealed by a party who loses at the trial court level or in a lower court of appeals. There are different rules and procedures for an appellate review than there are for trial court cases. Some attorneys specialize in representing clients in appellate court, and some sub-specialize in appearing in a specific court of appeals.

The losing party in a case brought to a trial court often has three options. To begin with, she can accept the judgment and pay damages or fines or serve jail time. She can also file motions asking the judge to vacate the judgment, and in some cases the circumstances are such that the judge may agree to do so. That scenario gives the winning party a third option that is also available to the losing party, and that is to appeal the case. Appellant lawyers or pro se litigants will file the briefs according the appeal law in effect in that jurisdiction and present oral arguments if requested by the court of appeals or the highest court reviewing the case.

When it comes to appeal law, the appellant is often required to file a notice of appeal with the trial court. It’s one way to alert the court of a need to collect transcripts and other material from the trial court. Appellate courts examine the materials from the trail court, along with appellate briefs submitted by both parties. New evidence or facts are not often allowed in a case that’s up for appellate review. If the court deems that necessary, the court will remand the case back to the trial courts.

A major difference between trial rules and appeal law cases is that cases are often presented to a panel of judges. Some courts require at least three members of the bench to be present, and other cases require the attention of all the judges who sit on the court of appeals. Oral arguments may be presented if the judges want to question the parties for clarification on the arguments presented in the briefs. Outside groups and individuals may submit briefs in cases that they are not a party to, known as amicus briefs, but they often cannot present oral arguments.

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