What is an Appellate Court?

Appellate courts are an integral part of the American judicial system. They are tasked with hearing and reviewing appeals from trial-level or lower court level legal cases. Any person or organization that receives an unsatisfactory or unsuccessful outcome in a trial court may file a petition with an appellate court to have the judicial decision reviewed. There are appellate courts at both the state and federal levels.

Appellate Courts

Appellate courts offer the functionality of checks and balances within the legal system. They are favored by individuals for the purposes of social justice and corporations because an appeal could overturn a negative judgement that has caused a drop in share prices. Appellate courts review the findings, evidence and legal logic from lower courts to determine if the appropriate decision was made and if the lower court correctly applied legal statues. The highest appellate court in the country is the Supreme Court, which hears only major appeals that come with national ramifications and consequences.

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The legal results of the appellate courts are summarized in legal briefs. These may include a statement of the case that describes the nature of the proceeding, judgement and jurisdiction. One of these sections will include an indictment section that specifies the exact charges against the defendant by citing the state or federal law code. It also includes a notice of appeal, any questions presented, a summary of argument and a statement of facts. The assignment of error section will conclude whether or not the trial court erred in granting or failing to grant a legal motion. The statement of facts is usually a chronological presentation of the incident’s occurrences.

Federal Trial Courts vs. Appellate Courts

Most people focus on federal appellate courts because the judicial results of their appeal cases affect the whole country. However, there are also trial courts that offer additional legal functions. First, federal trial courts are called district courts, but federal appellate courts are referred to as courts of appeals. These cases can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but trial court cases cannot be further appealed. Federal cases are first heard in a trial court, but if one party disagrees with the court’s decision, they can appeal to a higher court to review the decision.

Trial cases only impact the people involved with the case, but the final outcome of appeals cases can potentially impact hundreds of millions of people. These judicial decisions are only binding within on district courts located within the federal circuit. During trial court proceedings, both legal sides present evidence and witnesses for a judge or a jury makes a decision. During appellate court proceedings, new evidence is not presented because the judge simply reviews the evidence to determine whether the trial court made the correct legal decision.

The party who files an appeal is referred to as the appellant. The party who must respond to the appeal is called the appellee. There are numerous steps to the appeals process, which will vary depending on the specific case. They usually require the appellant to file a notice of appeal, notice of filing, docketing statement and record on appeal to the circuit court. Then, the appellee has the opportunity to file their corresponding legal documents and petition.