What Is An Appellant?

Appellant is derived from the word, appeal. An appellant then is one who appeals. Within the legal system, appellant describes an individual who appeals a court decision. An appeal of a court or judge’s verdict is lodged by the person seeking the appeal through his appellate attorney. He is basically asking for a different opinion from another court or judge. The strategy is to obtain a more favorable outcome from his case before the court.

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Legal Reasons for Appeals

Most court decisions can be reviewed on appeal if there is a legitimate, legal issue. ‘I didn’t like the decision’ as the sole reason is not one of them. There must be evidence of a flaw in the process of the case for the appeal to have legal merit.

The acceptable reasons for a potentially successful appeal of a case are listed and briefly explained below. Review them to get an idea for what may be considered good grounds for appeals.

Insufficient Representation

The appellant can file an appeal based on incompetent or unsatisfactory legal representation. If he thinks his attorney(s) did a poor job presenting his defense, his side of the dispute, he has grounds for an appeal.

Lack of Evidence

If the evidence lacks enough legal merit to reach the decision rendered, the aggrieved party can appeal the verdict.

Rule of Law Mistake

Judges sometimes make legal errors. If the questionable verdict is arrived at based on such an error, an appeal is warranted.

Abuse of Legal Parameters

Some areas of law have some flexibility as to how they are viewed, interpreted and applied. If a judge strays too far afield with this discretion, the verdict can be appealed. Legal site FindLaw offers a more extensive explanation of what is considered sufficient grounds for appeal.

Where Appeals Are Filed

Logically, appeals are filed within the court system set up to specifically address them. The appellate courts are the branch of the court system to which appeals are lodged and cases adjudicated. Appellate courts exist on both the national and state levels. They are divided into several divisions or jurisdictions within the individual states and nationally. This hierarchy is in place to more efficiently service those filing appeals.

If a case is first heard on the state level, the appeal then goes to the appellate court in that state division. The appellate court nearest the original case is usually the court of appeal to hear the case appeal. This same arrangement is in place for appealing cases on the federal level.

Appeal Process

Selecting Appeals Attorney

The person seeking to have an appeal heard must seek out an appeals attorney. His attorney from the first case may or may not help with hiring an appeals attorney. Individuals are allowed to represent themselves in these appeals, but hiring an appeals attorney is highly recommended.

Attorney Review

The hired appellate attorney then reviews the case file and the stated grounds for appeal on behalf of the client.

Attorney Prepares Appeal Argument

Based on his review, the attorney constructs the legal argument that supports the reason for the appeal and writes his opening brief.

Files Opening Brief

The attorney then files an opening brief for the appeal hearing.

Court Schedules Hearing

The court schedules and hears the appeal. Based on the legal merit of the appeal, the appeals court renders its decision.


From this brief article, you should now have a better understanding of what an appellant is. How this important function of our court system works is an invaluable resource for understanding the courts and judicial system.