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An appeal offers a chance for a party to take action to rectify a material legal error or misapplication of the law by a trial court. In criminal law, only the defendant has a general right to appeal. However, as explained by the American Bar Association (ABA), “in a civil case, either party may appeal to a higher court.” A plaintiff or a defendant may be able to appeal an order or judgment in a civil case. 

This raises an important question: Do you need permission to appeal a civil case? The short answer is “it depends”—whether you have a right to appeal or need permission to appeal based on when and why a party is initiating an appeal. Here, our civil appellate lawyers provide a more comprehensive explanation of the critical things to know about court permission and civil appeals. 

You May or May Not Need Permission to Appeal (Appeal By Right vs. Discretionary Review)

You always have the right to seek an appeal in a civil case—whether it arises out of a federal court or a state court. However, you do not necessarily always have the right to have your appeal actually heard by the court. In criminal cases, defendants have a right to appeal a conviction as a matter of law. In civil cases, parties sometimes—but not always—have a right to appeal by law. In some civil cases, permission to appeal is required. Here is what you need to know:

  • Appeal By Right (No Permission Required): A civil appeal that can be heard as a matter of right does not require permission. You can file a Notice of Appeal with the court. 
  • Appeal By DIscretionary Review (Permission Required): A civil appeal that is subject to discretionary review generally requires permission. A petition requesting permission will typically need to be filed with the circuit clerk. 

Understanding the Process Through an Example: Washington State Civil Appellate Law

Whether or not you have a legally-protected right to appeal a civil case or you must get permission to appeal a civil case depends on several factors, including your jurisdiction and the specific issues at stake in the case. To provide a better understanding, here is an example of how Washington State law procedural rules apply to civil appeals: 

  • Civil Appeals By Right in Washington State; Under Rules of Appellate Procedure (RAP) 2.2, certain civil matters are covered by automatic appeals rights, including final judgments and decisions affecting a substantial right. 
  • Civil Appeals By Discretionary Review in Washington State: Under Rules of Appellate Procedure (RAP) 2.3, civil matters not covered by RAP 2.2 are subject to discretionary review. Permission must be obtained to appeal on these issues. 

Higher Level of Appeal is Generally Discretionary

For most legal matters, there are multiple levels of appeal. For example, if you received an unfavorable verdict in a federal appeal, you could take the case to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme (and state supreme courts) are generally not required to hear any specific appeal. They take on cases on a discretionary basis when the circumstances warrant. The United States Court system cites data showing that the U.S. Supreme Court only agrees to hear around two percent of petitions for appeal that are filed. 

An Appellate Lawyer Will Help You Navigate Procedural Requirements

The appeals process is complicated. Not only are there strict deadlines, but there are a lot of procedural requirements that you must satisfy to have your appeal heard. You do not have to figure out the entire appeals process alone. An experienced appellate lawyer can review your case, answer your questions, and ensure that all of the filing requirements are met—whether you can appeal by right or you need to submit a petition to get permission for a discretionary review of the trial court’s decision. 

Set Up a Confidential Consultation With Our Civil Appeals Attorney Today

At The Appellate Law Firm, our civil appellate lawyers have the professional expertise that you can trust in a complex case. If you have questions about your legal options, we are here to help. Contact our law firm today to set up your fully private case review. We handle civil appeals in several states, including Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Washington, California, and Oregon.

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Do you or a loved one have a trial case that you wish to appeal? If so, call the office or contact us at The Appellate Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation of your case and learn more about how to increase your chances of success with your appellate case.

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