Can I always appeal my court decision?
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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021
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Always is a very strong word for anything legal. As a general rule, every case can be appealed. However, within that rule there are some definitions and explanations that guide the appeal process and weed out those who should never have appealed in the first place. Read our article on reasons to appeal your case.
To start with, the appeals court exists to review decisions of law and determine if the law was accurately and impartially interpreted. If your trial was a jury trial, the person that the appeals court evaluates is the judge, not the jury. The appeals court cannot determine the credibility of a witness or make a decision as to whether or not someone was lying in their testimony. Instead, the appellate court determines whether the judge made all of their decisions based on the law.
When a judge makes a wrong decision it is called a mistake in law. Examples of mistakes that a judge can make are wrongly throwing out key pieces of evidence, ruling incorrectly on a material objection or giving the wrong instructions to the jury during any phase of the trial. In order for any of these mistakes to warrant a remand (reversal) of your case, they must have been so severe as to cause the wrongful outcome. The best person to consult for this information is your trial attorney. Write down the mistakes that they list off and their significance to use when you consult an appellate attorney.
Next, the law requires that only negatively impacted parties may appeal. In other words, you must have lost the trial. You cannot appeal if you won the trial, but your award was less than what you asked for or you did not receive anything because of complicating circumstances. In order to appeal, the judgment that the judge enters must list the other party as the prevailing party in the case.
Lastly, you have to time your appeal correctly. You cannot file an appeal with the court of appeals until your judgment is officially entered. This does not happen on the day of your trial, rather a judgment can be entered as late as six months after the original trial. You’ll know that your judgment was entered when you receive an official copy in the mail. Also, after that judgment is filed, you typically only have between 30 and 60 days from the date of filing to file your appeal. The time frame depends entirely on the state where the trial happened. For more information on this deadline, consult with an appellate attorney.
If you are considering appealing your case, the first step is always consulting an appellant attorney. Appellant attorneys specialize in drafting and arguing appeals and will give you the best chance for a favorable outcome with the appeal. When you consult with an appellant attorney, bring your judgement along. Additionally, be prepared to answer questions about mistakes that the judge made during the trial.