Appeals and Process: What are they?

Appellate procedure consists of the rules and practices by which appellate courts review trial court judgments. Appellate review performs several functions, including: the correction of errors committed by the trial court, development of the law, achieving a uniform approach across courts, and the pursuit of justice, more generally.

Appellate procedure focuses on several main themes: what judgments are appealable, how appeals are brought before the court, what will be required for a reversal of the lower court (e.g., a showing of “abuse of discretion,” “clear error,” etc.), and what procedures parties must follow.

Appealable issues are commonly limited to “final judgments”. They include: instances of plain or fundamental error by the trial court, questions of subject-matter jurisdiction of the trial court, or constitutional questions.

Argument in appellate court centers around written briefs prepared by the parties. These state the questions on appeal and enumerate the legal authorities and arguments in support of each party’s position.

Only a few jurisdictions allow for oral argument as a matter of course. Where allowed, oral argument is intended to clarify legal issues presented in the briefs. Ordinarily, oral arguments are subjected to a time limit extended only upon the discretion of the court.

Federal appellate courts are governed by the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure State appellate courts are governed by their own state rules of appellate procedure