How to Appeal the Court’s Decision?
Do you ever wonder what the appeal process looks like, who does what and how it works?
The person who loses the case has the right, under United States law to appeal the decision to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a criminal case, the defendant has the right to file an appeal, the U.S. government cannot appeal a “not guilty” verdict, and in a civil case, either party can file an appeal. In a criminal case, the government can appeal the sentence.
It is up to the appellant (person filing the appeal) to show some legal error that affected the decision. The appellant must write and submit a brief which describes how the error affected the verdict and request that the decision be reversed. In their documentation, the appellant may cite precedent to support their argument.
The appellee is the person who is defending the original trial decision and sets out to prove that the verdict is correct. They too need to prepare a brief detailing their recollection of the trial specifics and quote other cases which support their views.
A panel of three judges hears the appeal. The only evidence reviewed are the two briefs. They do not listen to witness testimony, review other documents or evidence from the original trial. Often they will hear oral arguments from the lawyer of one or both sides. An oral argument takes about 15 minutes, and the judges can ask questions during this process.
The judges then meet to discuss and vote on the case. Then one of the judges drafts a written opinion for the final record. If only two of the judges agree, the third may prepare his own dissenting opinion. This process may take weeks or even months.
The final verdict may be one of the following:
- Uphold, the lower court’s decision
- Reverse/overturn, the lower court’s decision
- Remand, or send the case back to the trial courts for some further action or a new trial.
If one of the parties is not happy with the opinion, they can request a rehearing En Banc, which means the briefs will be re-reviewed by all the court of appeal judges and not just three.
The Supreme Court
Even though the U.S. Court of Appeals decisions are binding, either party has the right to request that it go to the Supreme Court, which is the highest level of our justice system.
The Supreme Court takes very few cases and has no obligation to accept any specific case. The person requesting the appeal must apply for a Petition for Writ of Certiorari. If granted, then the Supreme Court will hear their case. Less than 100 cases per year are accepted.
If they refuse to grant the petition, then the Court of Appeals decision remains the final word. The process for appeal in the Supreme Court works almost the same as it does in the Court of Appeals.
How to Appeal the Court’s Decision in Your State?
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia