Are you preparing to appeal an adverse verdict in a criminal case or a civil case? If so, it is imperative that you have a general understanding of how the appeals process works. There are unique procedures that apply in appellate courts. With limited exceptions, parties are generally not able to present new evidence in an appeal. Here, our appellate law attorneys explain the key things to know about your right—or lack thereof— to present new evidence as part of an appeal.
Appellate Courts Do Not Review New Evidence or Listen to New Witnesses
Appellate courts differ from trial courts in several ways. How appellate courts and trial courts handle evidence is one of the central differences. As the American Bar Association (ABA) explains, appellate courts do not review new evidence or listen to new witnesses. Establishing the record—meaning determining the facts of the case—is largely the job of the trial court. In contrast, the role of the appellate court is to examine the trial record and ensure that the law was applied correctly and that the trial was conducted fairly.
Note: Appellate courts generally do not review new evidence in either criminal cases or civil cases. In both criminal and civil appellate law, the court will focus on the existing record.
There is a Presumption That the Trial Court’s Finding of Fact(s) is Accurate
It is the trial court’s responsibility to weigh the credibility of witnesses, evaluate evidence, and determine the facts of the case. In effect, this means Allowing new evidence or testimony at the appellate level would undermine the trial court’s role and potentially lead to inconsistent findings. That part of the process is simply not the job of the appellate court. Indeed, appellate courts are largely not equipped to evaluate new evidence or assess witness credibility. They lack the resources, time, and procedural framework to conduct fact-finding missions or examine new evidence in the same way trial courts do.
What Appellate Courts Do: Review the Trial Record for Legal/Procedural Errors
Understanding that the appellate court does not review new evidence or listen to new witnesses, you may have questions about what exactly it is that the appeals court does. Here is what you need to now:
- The primary function of appellate courts is to review the trial record for legal or procedural errors.
By examining the trial court’s proceedings and decisions, appellate courts can determine if any errors were made that may have affected the outcome of the case. Among other things, an appellate court may assess whether the trial judge applied the correct legal standards, determine whether the jury was given proper instructions, or review to see if any procedural errors occurred.
The Appeals Process is Handling Largely on Paper: You Need a Strong Appellate Brief
The appellate process usually begins with the filing of a notice of appeal by the losing party, followed by the submission of written briefs by both parties. These briefs set forth the legal arguments and authorities supporting each party’s position. The appellate court may also hold oral arguments, during which attorneys for each side present their arguments to the panel of judges and answer questions posed by the judges. If an appellate court finds that a significant legal/procedural error occurred during the trial, it may reverse the trial court’s decision or order a new trial.
An Appellate Lawyer Can Help You Explore Every Available Grounds for Appeal
Given the complexity of the appellate process and the unique nature of appellate courts, it is crucial to have an experienced appellate lawyer on your side. You do not want to take on the process alone. An appellate lawyer can help you explore every available ground for appeal by carefully reviewing the trial record and identifying potential legal or procedural errors.
Indeed, working with an appellate lawyer can significantly increase your chances of a successful appeal, ensuring that your case receives the thorough and fair review it deserves. If you believe you have grounds for an appeal, consulting with an experienced appellate attorney is a crucial first step.
Schedule a Confidential Consultation With Our Appellate Lawyers Today
At The Appellate Law Firm, our appellate lawyers are committed to helping clients navigate complex claims. If you have any questions about the role of evidence in a court appeal, we can help. Contact us today for a confidential consultation. Our firm provides criminal and civil appellate law representation in Washington, California, Oregon, Texas, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, and Georgia.