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Courts make errors. Whether you are navigating a criminal case, a civil case, or a family law dispute, there is no certainty that the trial court is going to get everything right. The appellate law process exists to grant parties an avenue to rectify material legal or procedural errors. You may be wondering: Can you appeal a ruling by an appellate court? The answer is “it depends”—some appellate court decisions can be successfully appealed, but such a review is often discretionary.  Within this article, our criminal and civil appeal attorneys explain the most important that parties should know about your rights to appeal an appellate court’s decision under federal/state law. 

Understanding Your Right to Appeal (Most Cases Can Be Appealed)

As background, it is important to understand appellate law more generally. Under U.S. federal law and state law, individuals, businesses, and organizations generally have the right to appeal an adverse decision by a court. In most (but not all) circumstances, non-discretionary appellate rights are available. In other words, there is a first-level appellate court that must accept your appeal. That is not to say that your appeal will necessarily be successful, but you generally have a right to have your initial appeal heard (reviewed) by a higher court. Upon review, the court may uphold, reverse, or modify the original ruling based on their assessment of the underlying legal issue(s).

You May Be Able to Appeal an Appellate Court’s Decision

Can you appeal the decision by an appellate court? The answer is often (but not always) “yes.” A party may have the option to appeal an appellate court’s decision. There are plenty of situations in both federal courts and state courts where the non-successful party on appeal can challenge an adverse ruling from an appellate court. However, it is crucial that you understand that an appeal of an appellate court’s decision does not always have to be heard. These are generally known as “discretionary appeals,” meaning the higher court may or may not decide to review the case. 

U.S. Supreme Court and State Supreme Courts have Discretionary Appellate Power

Both the Supreme Court of the United States and state supreme courts have discretionary appellate power. As explained by the Washington State Office of Public Defense, discretionary appellate power is a type of review whereby “there is no right to review.” Put another way, the higher-level court may or may not agree to hear the case. They are not legally required to do so. 

To petition for review by a higher court, a party must submit a document known as a writ of certiorari (in the case of the U.S. Supreme Court) or a petition for review (in the case of state supreme courts). These documents outline the legal issues at stake and explain why the higher court should accept the case for review. You must raise strong grounds for appealing if challenging the decision of an appellate court. 

Getting the First-Level Appeal Right is Essential 

Given the discretionary nature of higher court review, it is crucial for parties to make the most of their first-level appeal, which typically occurs at the intermediate appellate court level. This means preparing a comprehensive and persuasive appellate brief, which lays out the legal arguments and highlights the errors made by the lower court in its decision. A well-crafted brief, combined with a skillful oral argument, can increase the chances of a successful appeal. If you have any specific questions or concerns about appealing a criminal case or an appellate case, an experienced appellate law specialist can protect your rights and your interests. 

The Bottom Line: An appellate court’s decision can sometimes be appealed. If you received an adverse ruling from an appellate court, you are not necessarily out of options. That being said, most second-level appeals—including federal/state Supreme Courts—largely have discretionary review power. In other words, they are not required to hear any appeal. 

Contact Our Appellate Lawyer for Immediate Help 

At The Appellate Law Firm, our appellate lawyers are diligent, knowledgeable, and solutions-driven legal advocates for clients. Our firm handles criminal, civil, and family cases. If you have any specific questions or concerns about appealing an appellate court’s decision, we can help. Contact our law firm today to set up your strictly confidential case review. We provide appellate law services in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, California, Oregon, Texas, Florida, and Georgia. 

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