Trial courts make mistakes, and when they do, an appeal can make legal sense. Appellate procedures allow you, as the losing party at trial, to bring to a higher court’s attention the legal mistakes or abuses of discretion which may have occurred in your case. If you prevail in the appeal, the case can be remanded (sent back) to the trial court with orders to reconsider the matter based on the appellate court’s instructions.
In a civil case either side may appeal the verdict. In a criminal case, the defendant may appeal a guilty verdict, but the government may not appeal if a defendant is found not guilty.
A litigant who files an appeal, known as an “appellant,” must show that the trial court or administrative agency made a legal error that affected the outcome of the case. The appellate court must decide the appeal based on the “record” of the case established by the trial court or agency. That means that the appellate court is limited to the evidence and arguments raised at the hearing or trial from which the appeal was taken – the appellate court can neither receive new evidence nor hear witnesses.
The appellant presents written legal arguments to the appellate court in a document called a “brief.” In the brief, the appellant tries to persuade the judges that the trial court made an error, and that its decision should be reversed. The party defending against the appeal, known as the “appellee,” or the “respondent,” tries in its brief to show why the trial court decision was correct, or why any error made by the trial court was not significant enough to affect the outcome of the case.
Once the issues are fully briefed by each side, the cases are scheduled for an “oral argument” before the court. Oral argument provides an opportunity for the litigants to attempt to persuade the judges of the merits of their respective positions, and for the judges to question the litigants on the facts of the matter and the relevant legal principles involved in the dispute. The amount of time given to each side to make their arguments depends upon the court, but usually does not exceed a half hour (and quite often it is far less).
Oral argument is heard by a panel of judges. The number of judges on the panel varies with the court. Panels of three judges typically hear federal appeals (except in the U.S. Supreme Court, where appeals can be heard by all nine Justices), while state appellate courts typically consist of panels of five (oral arguments in the New York State Court of Appeals, however, are heard by its seven Judges). These judges render the appellate court’s decision in the matter.
Since your appeal is often your final chance at achieving the justice you seek, do not trust it to a lawyer or firm that merely dabbles in appellate practice. The ability to craft a persuasive and hard-hitting brief requires enormous skill and experience. Similarly, don’t be fooled into believing that a lawyer can effectively handle oral argument simply because he or she has had prior trial experience. Specialized skills are required in order to deliver an effective and powerful oral argument, and these only come from ample appellate experience. After all, unlike at the trial level, where lawyers make their arguments to a jury that must remain silent, on appeal, the “jury” talks back.
We are experienced at criminal appeals, civil appeals, and administrative appeals in both state and federal courts. Our broad experience in both civil and criminal trials gives us a winning edge over other appellate firms. Because we are very familiar with trial practices, techniques, and issues, we offer the unparalleled ability to uncover errors with the trial process and to effectively present them to the appellate courts. Moreover, our ability to think quickly on our feet and to clearly articulate our arguments is finely-honed, and allows us to respond to judges’ rapid-fire questioning during oral argument clearly, directly, and with consummate poise.
We are also experienced in assuming cases from other counsel and will work cooperatively with your trial attorneys to make the transition as seamless as possible.
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