Many are generally familiar with how local state and federal lower courts work, with lawyers presenting their cases in court to a judge and possibly a jury. The appellate court’s format is different, and many considering an appeal have questions about how it works. Typical questions we hear include:
How do we start an appeal?
It begins by filing a Notice of Appeal with the Clerk of the lower court or administrative agency within the time limits specified by the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure (usually 30 days).
Do we retry the case in appeals court?
The case is not retried in front of a new judge. Instead, an appellate judge or panel of judges reviews existing records from the lower court. Both parties also file briefs for the appellate court about why the lower court’s decision was correct or incorrect.
What are the typical reasons for appealing a court’s ruling?
Each case is different, and so are the appeals, but common reasons include the following:
- The lower court judge made a legal error that affected the trial’s outcome.
- The judge’s application of the law was unconstitutional.
- The judge abused their discretion.
- The judge based their decision on insufficient evidence.
Can a party appeal because they didn’t like the lower court’s ruling?
Everyone has the legal right to an appeal, but the grounds for an appeal must involve a legal error (as outlined above) in the lower court trial.
What happens after the appellate judges hear the case?
The appellate court has a few different options when making its decision:
- It affirms the lower court’s decision, and the trial verdict stands.
- It remands the case to the trial court, which commonly happens if the appellate court believes a new standard under the law prompts a resentencing or retrial by the lower court. The lower court then often uses the appellate rulings or instructions as a guide.
- It reverses or vacates the lower court’s ruling because of a judge’s error.
Is it easy to appeal?
It is not. The appellee must prove that the lower court made a mistake. There is a considerable burden of proof.
Is someone vindicated if the appellate court hears their appeal?
The lower court’s judgment remains unless the appellate court says otherwise.
Can my lawyer continue to represent me during the appeal?
Most lawyers do not handle appellate work. The unique format and complex nature of the cases require a specific skill set.