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Taking your case to the appellate court

If you have taken your dispute to court, it is likely because you had a great deal at stake. Whether you fought for restitution from a personal injury claim, sought to resolve a dispute within your business or took on a corporation that wronged you in some way, the decision to go to court was not an easy one.

It took tremendous sacrifices of time, money and effort to fight for your rights, which is why a negative outcome is so disappointing. Fortunately, a trial court decision is not always the end of the line. Under certain circumstances, you may have cause to appeal the decision of a judge or jury.

The appeals process

Taking your case to an appellate court is not the same thing as re-trying the case. In fact, the appeal focuses on errors of the law that may have occurred during your trial. Neither side will introduce new evidence, testimony or arguments during an appeal.

The entire process is quite different from a civil trial. For example, instead of a single judge or a jury hearing your arguments, a panel of judges will read a brief of your case. An appellate brief is a document your attorney prepares which states the reasons why you believe the decision in your trial was incorrect. Those reasons may include a misinterpretation of the law or the inclusion of evidence the judge should have excluded. The rest of the process may include the following steps:

  • The other side prepares its brief explaining why the verdict or ruling in your case was correct.
  • The panel of judges, usually three, reads the briefs and examines relevant parts of the trial record.
  • The judges may call the attorneys for both sides to answer questions about the case.
  • The panel will decide whether the lower court's decision in your case will stand or if legal errors significantly affected the outcome.

A California appellate court that decides in your favor may reverse the decision of the lower court. If your appeal is unsuccessful, you may appeal to the next highest court, but since these courts cannot possibly handle all the requests they receive, they do not always accept requests for hearings. A great deal rests in the strength of the appellate brief your attorney prepares. For this reason, you will want a legal professional who understands well the special points of law related to the appeals process.

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