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Understanding The Appeals Process

Understanding The Appeals Process

The appeals process can be lengthy and complex, and requires an understanding of special rules, procedures and deadlines.

Understanding The Appeals Process

The legal system is a confusing mystery to many Americans.  You may have picked up some terms or knowledge from pop culture, but until you’ve gone through a case yourself, you may not have a real understanding of what it all means or how it all fits together.

One example of a term that is commonly used but perhaps not well-understood is “appeals.”  While most people may know generally what the word means when used in a legal context, they may not be aware of what it actually means to file an appeal — when and how it can be done, how long it takes, and how likely you are to win an appeal.  The rules for appeals are incredibly complex, and require the skill and expertise of an experienced appeals attorney (sometimes called an appellate attorney). 

At PBLSMH, we are proud of our success in handling appeals on behalf of our clients.  We have appealed unfavorable rulings and decisions on behalf of our clients in civil cases and administrative cases, such as in workers’ compensation or social security disability matters. Read on to learn more about how the appeals process generally works for civil cases.

What Is An Appeal?

An appeal is essentially asking a higher court to change the decision made by a lower court.  Each state and the federal government has a system of courts, with different levels of courts hearing different cases.

Most civil cases start out at the trial court level. If the trial court makes a decision that a party believes is incorrect, that party can file an appeal to the appellate court to ask them to review the decision. Depending on the type of case that it is, the higher court can refuse to hear the appeal, or it can take the appeal and issue an order.  The order will do one of three things: sustain (uphold) the lower court’s decision, overturn it, or remand it.  Remand means that the higher court is sending the case back to the lower court to do something more in accordance with the higher court’s decision.  The higher court might tell the lower court that it has to make a finding of fact on a certain issue, or rule on a particular matter.

Importantly, an appeal is not another trial.  You cannot present new evidence or information.  It is only a review of the original judgment or decision by the lower court.

When Can You Appeal An Order?

In civil cases, an appeal can be taken from orders of a court.  Parties can either appeal the final decision or judgment in a case, or can file appeals about matters that arise while the case is still ongoing (known as interlocutory appeals). This post will explore appeals of final judgments.

In an appeal, you are essentially asking one judge to say that another judge made a mistake.  This is not something that most judges will do lightly, so you have a high burden of proof to succeed on an appeal. The appellate court will consider two factors when deciding your appeal:

  • Did the lower court make a legal mistake?
  • Did the mistake change the outcome of the final judgment?

If the appellate court finds that the lower court make a legal error and that mistake impacted the final decision, then it may overturn the lower court’s decision.

The appeals process has very strict rules and timelines.  An appeal must be filed within a certain time frame, or you will be prohibited from filing it.  Appeals courts are governed by separate, complex rules that must be followed, from how appeals are submitted to the number of pages that an appeal can contain.  A qualified appeals attorney is typically necessary to file a successful appeal.

If you require the services of a skilled appellate attorney, contact PLBSH at (800) 435-7542 or info@plbsh.com.  Our team of attorneys are highly experienced in filing civil and administrative appeals, and can evaluate your case to determine if you have cause to bring an appeal and what the likelihood of success is.  We will fight hard for your rights, and will diligently pursue an appeal to obtain the best possible outcome for your case.

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