The Law Offices of Terry P. Roberts, Esq. - Appellate Law

What's an Appeal?


Most non-lawyers have only a vague understanding of what an appeal is and what an appellate lawyer does. Everyone has seen a courtroom TV scene where a fictional lawyer shouts "objection!" during a trial. The TV judge typically says, "overruled" (I don't agree with the objection) or "sustained" (I do agree with the objection), and then the trial keeps going.

Judges are a lot like a referee in sports. Just like you can occasionally get a referee's call reviewed and even reversed, trial court judge's decisions are also reviewed by appellate courts. Unlike sports, however, trial courts don't halt a trial for every issue that a party may wish to appeal. Instead, they keep going until the case is finished and then the appellate attorney raises ALL of the mistakes he or she thinks the trial court made. Both sides can usually file "briefs," written documents containing a history of the case, citations to legal authority like cases and statutes, and argument about whether a trial court's decision should be reversed on appeal.

If an appealing party is successful, the appellate court can do many types of things---the loser can become the winner, the loser can be awarded a new trial, or a sentence or judgment might be reduced or eliminated altogether. There are too many possible outcomes to discuss on a webpage and every case is different, but the basic idea is clear: trial courts sometimes make mistakes and it is the duty of appellate courts to double-check what happened at trial. If what happened at trial was not fair, the appellate court steps in and undoes the damage.

As you can imagine, appellate law is very different from litigation or trial law. "Inside information" a trial attorney may have about your case usually doesn't matter, as the only thing the appellate court is allowed to consider is the written record (the transcripts of your hearings and the documents or exhibits filed by the attorneys). Even if a trial attorney has the "inside scoop" on what happened at the trial, no facts other than those in the official court record can be mentioned in the appellate briefs or appellate arguments. Hiring an experienced appellate attorney rather than a trial attorney is highly recommended.

The Law Office of Terry P. Roberts only handles appellate-related matters. Call today for information about your case.