Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Sep 24, 2011

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As a general rule, the final judgment of a lower court can be appealed to the next higher court only once. In any one case, the number of appeals thus depends on how many courts are “superior” to the court that made the decision, and sometimes what the next high court decides or what the basis for your appeal is.

In the large states, there are three or even four levels of courts, while in some less populous states there are only two. There are important differences in the time limits, rules, and procedures depending on whether the case was brought in Federal court or state court. Different rules apply in each state. Also, often even within a state there are different rules depending on which court tried the case.

Most state courts require “finality” before an appeal — in much the same way as Federal courts — but there are many minor differences. A few states, such as New York, do not require “finality” for appeals. In such states, it is very common for parties to appeal decisions such as a denial of a motion for summary judgment (a motion that asks a court to decide the case on the law where there is no substantial dispute about the facts). In such jurisdictions, there are many more appeals.

We strongly recommend that, if wish to appeal your case, you should consult a lawyer experienced in appellate matters. Appeals are one area of the law that require the expertise of a lawyer who will help you assess your case. The average person cannot adequately handle them alone.