Steps of the Appeals Process: How to Appeal a Case to a Higher Court

Television and movies are filled with scenes involving courtroom trials. However, cases pending in appellate courts are not as commonly featured on the big or little screen. Nonetheless, the appellate process is a crucial element of the judicial system. Understanding the appellate process is fundamental for a person who wants to understand fully his or her rights within the judicial system.

Before an appeal from either a criminal or civil case can be filed there needs to be a final judgment of the trial level court. In a criminal case, that final judgment normally is considered to be the sentencing order of the court. In a civil case, the final judgment normally is considered to be the order disposing of all of the issues of the parties to the case itself.

When the final judgment is issued by the court, the next step in the process is the filing of what is known as a Notice of Appeal. A Notice of Appeal actually is filed with the trial court and is designed to give notice to both the trial court and the other party or parties to the case of a person’s intention to appeal.

It absolutely is crucial that the Notice of Appeal be filed within a timely manner. Each state has a specific statute governing the time frame for which a Notice of Appeal must be filed. If a person fails to file a Notice of Appeal within the time permitted by statute, that individual will be forever barred from raising an appeal. From a technical standpoint, the Notice of Appeal and the filing of that notice in a timely manner is considered jurisdictional. In other words, if it is not filed in the manner prescribed by law, the appellate court will never have jurisdiction over the case.

Once the Notice of Appeal is filed, the case moves onward to the appellate court itself. The appellate court will establish a time line for the filing of certain documents and materials with that court. This will include the appellate brief filed by the person lodging the appeal in the first instance.

Following the briefing process, in many cases a hearing will be held at which both sides of the case will present oral arguments to the court. These arguments normally are presented to by the attorneys representing the parties to the case.

It is important to understand that in most cases the appeal process can take from 12 to 18 months from start to finish. There are some instances in which the appellate process is accelerated for specific reasons. However, and again, in most cases the appellate process does not move at a rate faster than the 12 to 18 month time frame mentioned a moment ago in this article.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that appellate law is a very specialized area in the legal professional. Therefore, a person facing the prospect of an appeal of case definitely will want to consider engaging the services of an experienced appellate attorney.

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