What is the definition of an appeal?
An appeal is defined as a petition to a higher court by the losing party in a court action to overturn a lower court’s ruling. The basis of an appeal is required to be a reversible mistake in the application of the law at the trial court level (i.e., in line with the facts, the court plainly misapplied the law).
In defense cases, an appeal may target the conviction on its own or just the sentencing portion regarding the decision without any regard to the particular underlying conviction. For instance, any time a defendant is properly convicted of manslaughter but a judge sentences the defendant to a prison term that’s beyond the limit of the law, the defendant will only appeal the prison term while leaving the actual conviction itself intact.
An appeal shall be filed only after the final judgment or order has been reached by the trial court. This is quite simply for reasons of efficiency, so that the court system isn’t bogged down by delays and trials are not constantly put on hold while awaiting appeals associated with a judge’s every verdict.
At the conclusion of a trial, the losing party may also produce direct appeals (e.g., motion for a new trial, motion for directed verdict) to the presiding judge to immediately overrule the jury’s judgement, nevertheless these are rarely effective.
Does an appeal constitute a new trial?
No. Within an appeal there aren’t any brand new issues presented or witnesses named to testify. The appellate court is only going to evaluate the trial’s transcript and evidence offered in the course of the trial to determine whether or not there were errors within either procedure or application of the law. Even though there were faults, when they are considered insignificant – legally named “harmless error” – the judgment will not be overturned or a new trial granted.
Can any sort of judgment be appealed?
The short response is no, there is no absolute right to an appeal. Each state has laws which outline the kinds of cases which appellate courts may consider. There must be an error of law for an appellate court to examine a case. That the losing party didn’t like the decision is not really enough to sustain an appeal.
That being said, even in administrative courts or lower level courts, if an individual’s constitutional legal rights have been infringed upon, some may sue in order to enforce their rights and/or to take another look at the original case.
What is the appeals process?
In Texas court proceedings, the appellant or petitioner (the party appealing the judgement) needs to file a notice of appeal within 30 days of the verdict. In federal court, the deadline is 60 days. The filing of the notice of appeal starts the clock running on the appeals process and then there are prescribed deadlines from this point on. The petitioner submits a legal brief detailing the alleged errors of law made by the trial court, and the respondent or appellee (the party that prevailed at the trial) writes a response.
Once the appellate court receives both petitioner and respondent briefs, it will assess the arguments and make a determination of whether: a) there were errors of law made by the trial court, and b) whether the errors rise to the level of “reversible error” (highly serious errors). As noted above, innocent discrepancies are going to be disregarded by the appellate court.
There may or may not be oral arguments given by petitioner and respondent. If the court makes the decision to hear oral arguments, the petitioner will present his or her own arguments and field inquiries from the judge(s) and after that the respondent will do the same. Usually in most appeals, this question and answer format usually lasts ten to fifteen minutes for each side.
Whether the appeals court listens to oral arguments or issues a judgment based merely on the written briefs, the court will either: 1) affirm the decision; 2) order a new trial; 3) change the ruling in some manner; 4) take into consideration new facts or evidence (seldomly); or 5) in extremely infrequent cases, may perhaps dispose of the case entirely.
What is the likelihood of an effective appeal?
The number of effective appeals is in fact marginal. Appellate courts allow the trial court great flexibility in carrying out trials. The law doesn’t necessarily promise perfect trials, accordingly appeals courts are only going to overturn verdicts that have clear, substantial errors of law.
Because of the leeway appeals courts give trial decisions, petitioners possess an even greater burden in verifying that errors of law happen to be serious and not benign. If an appellate court can discover any satisfactory argument that the oversight might not have changed the decision (and is therefore “harmless”), it will refuse to overturn the verdict.
There are, naturally, a number of cases where significant errors were made and appeals courts will overturn those decisions. Notably serious are charges that the trial court refused rights secured by the constitution, that include due process and equal protection rights.
I lost my trial due to the fact that my attorney made foolish errors, can’t I depend on an appeal to correct them?
Don’t rely on appeals to make up for any genuine or perceived inadequacies at trial. You must put all of your energy into the trial itself, which involves locating the proper lawyer to try the case. Effectively appealing a verdict since you had a deficient attorney is a challenging proposition. You cannot appeal since you simply had a poor lawyer.
You can appeal on the basis that your attorney was so incompetent that you simply had been essentially denied your 6th Amendment right to a fair trial (known legally as an “ineffective assistance of counsel” appeal). This occurs almost exclusively in criminal defense situations and the standard for the appeal is very high – courts are extremely deferential to the competency of attorneys and maintain a strong presumption that the lawyer’s assistance was within professional standards. To put it in perspective, there have been circumstances where an attorney has fallen asleep during a trial, yet the verdict was not overturned nor the case retried.
Many circumstances aren’t eligible for appeal simply because the trial attorney did not object to a ruling during the trial, and therefore didn’t “preserve” that issue for appeal. For example, a written statement from a witness accusing a defendant of robbery is entered into evidence, but the witness does not testify at trial. The defense attorney does not object and the defendant is convicted based solely on the written statement. The Confrontation Clause of the 6th Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to face his accuser, a right which, if infringed, could form the basis for an appeal.
Because the lawyer failed to object at trial to the admission of a written statement rather than live testimony, however, the defendant is deemed to have waived this right and an appeal will possibly not be allowed on that issue.
The example sounds absurd; an attorney waives your constitutional right through ineptitude, yet your appeal on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel fails – but it happens frequently. An appeals court may reason that putting the witness to the stand wouldn’t have had any positive effect for the defendant and due to this fact the decision not to object could be considered a trial strategy. That’s the type of deferential latitude attorneys get in ineffective assistance of counsel appeals and the reason why it is absolutely essential to decide on your attorney wisely at the very beginning of the process and stay involved during each part of the trial.
What is the definition of a writ?
A writ is a directive from a higher court ordering a lower court or government official to take a specified action in accordance with the law. For example, if a lower court decides to try a case that is outside of its jurisdiction, one or more of the legal professionals involved may object and seek a writ of mandamus (writ of mandate) from an appeals court ordering the lower court to reassign the case to another jurisdiction.
How are writs and appeals different?
Writs are extraordinary court orders and only issued in cases where a moving party (the one seeking the writ) has no other options. In the case of the writ of mandamus from above, the moving party had to act quickly because the lower court improperly took the case. If the moving party had merely objected at trial and waited to appeal, a remarkable waste of time and money would have taken place – and all for virtually nothing if the trial court improperly took the case.
Generally, higher courts won’t review conclusions of a lower court until a final verdict is delivered, for the formerly discussed reasons of efficiency and leeway given to lower courts. Unlike appeals, which require a final verdict, writs are on the spot orders and extraordinary in that the normal course of a trial is disrupted, potentially causing disorder and delay.
Courts do not take such events lightly and superior courts do not issue writs often. A court will only issue a writ when a lower court wrongly decided an issue, irreparable harm would occur to a party, and there are no other options.
Courts might also issue writs, such as writs of attachment and execution, in order to force compliance with a court order by an unwilling party.
What’s a writ of habeas corpus?
A writ of habeas corpus is a judicial mandate to a prison official ordering that an inmate be moved to the court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully and whether or not he or she should be released from custody.
Literally translated, a writ of habeas corpus is a court order to “produce the body,” and is generally filed by those in prison, though they are also filed by those who have been held in contempt of court by a judge and either imprisoned or threatened with imprisonment. Also known as “the Great Writ,” habeas petitions are very often referred to as the hallmark of the United States justice system. Unlike other countries where the governing administration may toss virtually anyone in jail and keep them there indefinitely without filing charges or conducting a hearing, habeas corpus serves as a check on the government and offers prisoners a legal avenue to protest their imprisonment.
A habeas corpus petition can be filed in state or federal court. Before filing in federal court, however, all state options must be exhausted first.
Everyone has the privilege to challenge illegal imprisonment or inhuman prison conditions. Like all writs, however, courts will insist on clear and convincing evidence in support of a writ and do not issue them frequently.
Houston Appeals Defense: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Dealing with the appeals process is tough and time consuming. An experienced attorney from the Charles Johnson Law Firm in Houston, Texas can help you plan your next move. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.