In basic terms, an appeal is a plea to a higher court to reverse a lower court's decision. Appeals are only intended to correct genuine legal mistakes—it doesn't apply if a litigant simply disagrees with a ruling. If a litigant believes the trial court made an error, he or she can file a Notice of Appeal. Most commonly, the appellant (the person filing the appeal) will claim that the judge made an error identifying the appropriate legal principles and precedents relevant to the case.
Sometimes, an appellant will argue that the judge abused his or her discretion in applying otherwise appropriate legal principles to the facts of his or her particular case. This is a much more difficult appeal to pursue. An appellate attorney can identify the best potential arguments on which to base an appeal, and he or she can inform you on whether or not pursuing an appeal would be worthwhile.
Once an appeal is filed, the appealing party will be ordered to prepare an opening brief. The other party is given the opportunity to file a responding brief. The court then sets a hearing, called the “oral argument,” and the parties' attorneys argue the appeal before a panel of three appellate justices.
In most family law cases, the oral argument will last 10 to 15 minutes per side. The appellate justices do not accept new evidence or hear witness testimony. They base their opinion primarily on the written briefs. This is why it is very important to consult early on with an experienced appellate attorney who can communicate to the appellate justices the strongest reasons why the judgment needs to be reversed (or who can best defend the trial court’s decision).
Requirements for appeals are focused on three major factors: a person who can appeal, a judgment that is appealable, and timing. You must meet specific qualifications in each of these areas to appeal.
If the appellate court decides that the writ does not have merit, it can issue a summary denial – which is a denial of the writ without explanation. A litigant will not know whether the writ was denied on its merits or because of a procedural mistake. An experienced appellate attorney is a significant benefit in this case, as he or she will be very familiar with the proper procedures—as well as the best way to present the writ to the appellate court.
Our firm has more than 18 years of experience in appellate law in the Ninth and Sixth Federal appellate courts and throughout California. We have prevailed against some of the best appellate attorneys in the state and know what it takes to make a winning appellate presentation to the court. If you're not sure if you qualify for an appeal, call today.
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