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When Is an Appeal Appropriate?

May 20, 2024

Appeals are for losers (in a case). Every case tried to a verdict will have a winner and a loser. For unsuccessful litigants, the consequences of that loss may be such that they want to file an appeal. Understanding the appellate process and what it entails is essential to determining whether an appeal is an appropriate next step. 

What Issues Are Appealable? 

Appeals are only allowed in limited circumstances. Depending upon the jurisdiction, appeals may be available before there is a verdict or even a trial. Other jurisdictions only allow for appeals following the conclusion of the case – either following a trial or a decision by the judge. The appropriateness of a verdict or judgment is not ordinarily a question or issue presented for appellate review. Rather, appeals typically look at whether the judge has made correct rulings of law. These rulings may cover procedural issues, evidentiary questions, or instructions regarding how the law is to be applied to the facts of the case.  

The trial judge’s or jury’s determination of the facts cannot be appealed unless there is insufficient evidence in the record to support their findings. 

Further, an appeal is not a retrial of the underlying claims in which new evidence or witnesses can be presented. Appeals are intended to evaluate the manner in which the trial was conducted in order to determine if legal errors affecting the final outcome were made.  

What Information Is Reviewed in an Appeal?

An appellate court’s review of the matter on appeal consists of evaluating transcripts of the testimony, examination of documents presented to the judge as well as review of documentary evidence submitted. 

Additionally, an appeals court will review and consider the legal briefs submitted by the attorneys which detail the trial court’s errors and the legal reasons why those errors were significant to the losing party. If an appellate court finds such reasoning persuasive, it can reverse the trial court’s decision or judgment and order a new trial or modify aspects of the judgment, or return the case to the lower court for further proceedings of any kind. 

How Does the Appellate Process Work?  

Procedurally, the appeal must be taken within a certain number of days following the entry of a judgment in the case. Typically, in jurisdictions that only allow for appeals at the end of the case, this is anywhere from 20 to 45 days following the completion of all case-related activity. Each state has its own rules regarding timing as well as optional or mandatory post-trial matters that must be addressed before the filing of the appeal. These rules must be carefully reviewed as the right to appeal may be lost if it is filed any time after the deadline.  

Additionally, the appeals process includes requirements for the submission of trial-related materials as well as the preparation and submission of appellate legal briefs prepared by the attorneys. Timing missteps with respect to these matters also have the effect of foreclosing an appeal. 

How Can Parties Protect Their Appeal Rights?

Considerations for an appeal must be made prior to trial. Experienced trial attorneys know the strengths and limitations of their respective cases as well as the clarity of relevant legal principles. Generally, they know whether they have a strong case and the likely outcome of particular disputes. This awareness enables them to properly prepare for trying the case so that these questions are appropriately preserved in the event an appeal needs to be taken. Throughout the litigation, the attorney also must continue to think strategically about producing all necessary evidence and witnesses and preserving objections to create a record for appeal.

An appeal isn’t necessarily available or advisable in every case. If you get an unfavorable result, talk with your attorney about whether to appeal and your likelihood of success. Our attorneys have extensive litigation experience, including evaluating and handling appeals. Contact us to discuss your matter.

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