Civil Appeals: Steps, Process and Parties
Court cases are designated as either criminal or civil in nature, and the main difference between the two is that civil cases seek monetary or some other type of compensation rather than criminal sentences. Furthermore, criminal cases involve a state or federal agency filing criminal charges against another person or party, whereas civil case can be filed by anyone.
What Are Civil Appeals?
Civil appeals take place when an appellant decides to appeal their civil case to a higher state or federal court. Civil cases are those which concern noncriminal matters, such as breach of contract, probate, divorce, negligence and copyright violations. One party will usually file a civil suit to sue the other.
If the party that doesn’t win the civil decision in court wishes to appeal, they must file the appropriate appellate forms with the higher court.
Steps In the Civil Appeals Process
- The appellant must file written notice of appeal with the court by a certain deadline, typically within 30 days.
- Written arguments are submitted by both the appellant and appellee as to why or why not the judgement should be revisited.
- Legal errors in court are the usual reason for an appeal, and can often result in a case being thrown out completely by a higher court. These reasons can include the fact that the appellant’s constitutional rights were violated, evidence that was allowed at trial should not have been admitted into court, evidence was not convincing, or the judge made mistakes when giving the jury instructions.
- Appeals are not decided in court by retrying a case. Appeals courts take into account the written arguments provided by both parties and determine whether to uphold the original court’s decision or to overturn it.
- If the appeal is from a trial court, it is filed with an intermediate appellate court. Decisions from an intermediate appellate court can be appealed with a higher court, usually a Supreme Court. This is true for both state and federal court systems.
Civil Appeals Parties
- The Appellant
The appellant is the losing party at a trial that files the appeal with the next level of courts. This could be either the plaintiff or defendant in the original court case.
- The Appellee
The appellee is the responding party to an appeal, or winning party. This could be either the plaintiff or defendant in the original hearing or trial.
- Legal Counsel
Each party in a civil appeal should have their own legal counsel they’ve employed to protect their rights and ensure they have navigated the court system correctly.
- Court Staff
The appellant and their legal counsel will need to file the appropriate appeal brief with the court clerk at the appellate court that is appropriate.
Types of Civil Cases
There are five main types of civil cases:
- Contract Disputes
Contract disputes occur among parties that have signed a contractual agreement of some sort and one of the parties does not hold up their end of the bargain. If they believe the other party has breached the contract they signed in some way, they can file a civil case against them.
- Property Disputes
Property disputes often involve claims regarding damage to someone’s property or legitimate ownership of the property. Oftentimes, this type of civil case is between neighbors who disagree about where a property line lies or when one neighbor builds a fence or plants something across their property line.
- Tort Cases
Tort claims involve cases where one party believes the other has caused them physical or emotional harm. These can involve accident and assault cases, or even negligence cases. Torts often relate to a person’s safety, their property’s safety or their financial security.
- Class Actions
Class actions are very similar to tort cases, except they represent a large group of people who have suffered from the same offense. These are often filed in cases of a defective product or drug, or when a company has exposed several people to hazardous chemicals.
- Complaints Against Government Entities
Most people don’t realize that individuals can file civil cases against their local or federal government. These cases are often settled out of court, but they are sent to court when the government named refuses to do so. These cases often involve claims that a city, state or federal government’s policies have caused harm to the citizens.
Notable Civil Appeals
- In Glick v. Cunniffe (2011), it was determined by the Court of Appeals that a private citizen has the right to film public officials, and specifically police officers in a public space. This case involved the filming of police making an arrest in a public park.
- In United States v. One Book Called Ulysses (1933), the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision that offensive language in the novel “Ulysses” was not obscene.
- In Hawk v. Easton Area School District (2013), the Third Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the free speech rights of two middle school girls wearing bracelets that said “I Heart Boobies (Keep a Breast)” was protected. The U.S. Supreme Court denied a final appeal from the school district of the decision.