The typical scenario that comes to mind when someone thinks of a legal appeal is when a party loses in court and appeals to try to change the outcome. That happens sometimes, but appeals aren’t a second chance, as most people think. The appellate process is different from a trial, with different procedures and objectives, which makes the appellate attorney in California a unique and highly valuable resource.
A civil lawsuit arises from disagreements between individuals, businesses, or other entities. Both sides submit a “brief” before the trial to the court outlining their arguments and the evidence they will use. The trial begins with each party presenting an outline of their case in the opening statement. Each party then presents evidence: the plaintiff first, then the defendant, then any rebuttal evidence. Closing arguments are delivered by both parties. Jurors are instructed on the applicable law(s), deliberations are held, and a verdict is reached. Appeals can be filed if one or both parties are unhappy with the result.
An appeal involves one party asking a higher court to review the trial proceedings for errors. As well as the record of evidence from the trial, both parties submit their briefs to the appellate court. Not a jury, but a judge reviews the case for legal errors only, and not the evidence or whether someone lied. Appellate courts issue opinions in which they announce their decision, either affirming the verdict if there were no errors in the trial court proceedings or reversing the verdict if there were.
The objective of a trial is to convince a jury that one side of the case is right or the other is wrong. In an appeal, the judges aren’t concerned with whether either side is right or wrong. Their only concern is whether the process was fair. Hence, the goal of an appeal is either to convince the judges that the trial proceeded correctly (if the verdict went in your favor) or that there were procedural errors (if the verdict went against you).
Towards the end of the article, the author explains why the appeals process matters. In the first place, it offers checks and balances to ensure that lower court judges follow the rules. A higher court can correct a judge’s honest mistake if he/she makes it on purpose. Finally, there are higher courts that interpret laws in ways that influence society as a whole. It is possible that the higher courts will want to step in and set policy when a court’s ruling is significant to a large segment of the population or when there is a very important issue for even a few people. “The lower courts can take this policy and apply it accordingly in future decisions.”