What is the definition of appeal? The definition of appeal in law means that a party from a concluded lawsuit asks a higher court to reconsider the ruling previously issued by the judge or jury. The party filing the appeal must have a legal reason to ask the appellate court or Supreme Court to review the ruling.

Key Elements of an Appeal

The elements that a claimant must meet depend on whether the appeal is being made in a civil case or a criminal case. For example, in certain types of criminal cases resulting in certain punishments, some jurisdictions may make the appeals process automatic. In most criminal cases and civil cases, the claimant must have a legal basis to request an appeal by a higher court. For civil cases:

  • A legal mistake occurred. 
  • An error in the legal process or its associated procedures caused the claimant to receive a decision against them.
  • The judge misapplied the governing statutes. 
  • The judge utilized an incorrect legal procedure.

For criminal cases:

  • A severe error of law occurred. 
  • Insufficient evidence supporting the decision of the court.
  • Abuse of discretion when the verdict was made.
  • Ineffective assistance of counsel.

Let’s look closer at the two main types of appeals:

  • A civil case appeal;
  • A criminal case appeal.

Types of Appeals and Their Impact

When a judge or jury reaches a verdict, one party “wins” and the other party “loses”. One or both parties in the case may have the legal right to appeal all or some of the rulings.

Civil vs. Criminal Appeals

Although a civil case and a criminal case can be appealed, certain criminal cases may have an automatic appeal, most have an active timeframe after the trial in which an appeal may be filed. In a civil case, the appeal primarily arises from a legal error of some kind. While the criminal case appeal includes legal errors, it also includes the ability to appeal if the evidence doesn’t support the trial’s decision.

Again, certain criminal cases receive an appeal that starts automatically. Because of the serious nature and consequences of their actions, this automatic redress begins with the appellate court. For civil cases to reach appeal, a party must actively seek to begin the process within the proper timeframe and by paying the filing fee with the appellate court.

Common Grounds for Appeal

The most common grounds for filing an appeal include:

  • Ineffective assistance of counsel as provided under the Sixth Amendment for criminal cases.
  • Substantial legal error.
  • Juror misconduct.
  • Prejudicial error.
  • Lack of evidence.
  • Abuse of discretion.
  • Prosecutorial misconduct in criminal cases.
  • A de novo review because of a question of law.

Appeals Process and Legal Procedures

The appeals process and its associated legal procedures are complex. There are:

  • Deadlines to start the process, respond to filed documents, and submit written arguments.
  • Page limits.
  • Preparing the transcript from the trial.
  • Requesting and preparing the legal briefs associated with the lower court trial that highlights the error in law being alleged
  • Preparing the notice of appeal and ensuring it’s served.
  • Filing a docketing statement with the appellate court.
  • The time limit for presenting oral arguments.

Other legal procedures to the appellate process depend on the grounds claimed in the appeal.

Often, the attorney who was involved in the original trial is not qualified or experienced in filing an appeal. Appeals have different standards than the trial court. It’s important that you hire an attorney experienced in the appeals process regardless of whether you are the claimant or the respondent.

Consequences of Appeals in Law

Three main legal consequences arise from an appeal:

  1. The appellate court or panel upholds the lower court’s ruling; meaning, the lower court's verdict stands.
  2. Reverse the ruling of the lower court in part or in whole; meaning, some or all of the original verdict may be struck down.
  3. Send the matter back to the originating lower court.

The consequences of an appeal depend primarily on the type of appeal filed and the facts behind the arguments. However, the appeals process can have consequences for both the claimant and respondent. Recently as a civil case example, we can consider the Round-up litigation. Although Bayer and other named defendants may have issues still on appeal, they were recently ordered to pay $1.5 billion; they hope that by appealing they may be able to shed some of the punitive damages assigned.

In a criminal case, the consequences of the appeal depend, again, on the facts of the case. One Supreme Court decision held that juveniles who are under 18 may not be given a life without parole sentencing. The ruling held that sentencing juveniles to life without parole violated the Eighth Amendment.

The outcomes of an appeal can greatly vary, depending on the specific facts and legal arguments of each case, affecting both civil and criminal proceedings. If you are considering an appeal or need guidance through the complexities of appellate law, Kermani LLP offers expert legal support and representation to navigate these critical issues effectively.

Glossary References



Ray Kermani
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