Frequently Asked Questions


Q: What is an appellate specialist and why should I use one?
A:

An appellate specialist is an attorney concentrating on appeals and writs. Most attorneys—including attorneys engaged in trial work—have very limited experience with appeals. The procedures in courts of appeal are very different from those in trial courts, and there are special rules concerning the types of arguments that can be made in an appeal.

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Q: How does an appeal work?
A:

All cases begin in trial court. If the parties cannot settle a lawsuit, it will eventually end in a judgment, perhaps as a result of a motion by one of the parties, by the judge dismissing the case, or by a jury verdict. An appellate specialist usually gets involved when a judgment has been (or is about to be) entered. At this point, the losing party can appeal his or her case to a higher court (the winning party may also appeal if he or she is dissatisfied with the way the trial court resolved an issue) and ask the higher court to correct any errors made by the trial court.

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Q: What is an interlocutory writ?
A:

In limited circumstances, a party may ask a court of appeal to intervene before a trial has reached its conclusion. Such procedures, usually called writs, are rare.

A writ is an order from a higher court to the trial court to modify a decision or order made during trial.

 
Q: What standard of review does the appellate court use?
A:

Appellate courts do not retry the case, nor do they listen to new evidence. They only consider the facts and evidence presented during the trial.

Appellate courts normally are required to give great weight to the factual findings of the trial court (or the jury). Appellate courts typically can only overturn findings of fact if the trial court came to a conclusion that no reasonable person would have reached. Further, the court of appeal court will only overturn the decision if the error was so prejudicial that there is a reasonable chance that the error changed the outcome of the trial.

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Q: If I lose my appeal, can I appeal again?
A:

If the first appeal was in state court, then the second appeal would be made to the state supreme court. If the first appeal was in federal court, then the second appeal would be made to the United States Supreme Court.

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