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How Do Oral Arguments Differ From Arguments at Trial?

At both the trial and appellate levels, attorneys are given the opportunity to present their case to the court. However, that is about the end of the similarities between oral arguments at the appellate level and a trial court case. An experienced appellate lawyer, like those at The Appellate Law Firm, understand these differences and have the skills necessary to appeal your case to the higher levels of court. To learn more about filing an appeal in your criminal or civil case, call or contact our office today.

Timing of Arguments

The first major difference between trial court arguments and appellate oral arguments is the timing. At the trial level, a lawyer will be given all the time necessary to make a comprehensive case to the court. Depending on the complexity of the case, this could take days or even weeks to fully present evidence, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and make opening and closing arguments to the court.

At the appellate level, attorneys on each side typically receive 15 to 30 minutes total to present their case. Some courts allow the opportunity for a short rebuttal, typically five to 10 minutes, but this is the only opportunity to argue the legal issues in front of the appellate judges. An appellate attorney has to know how to condense all of the issues on appeal into a very small window of time.

Issues Discussed

The issues discussed are also different between the trial and appellate arguments. At trial, a lawyer is arguing issues focused on a set of facts, and the decision they are arguing for applies only to those facts. At the appellate level, the attorney is arguing issues of law and how that law was applied incorrectly or misinterpreted at the trial level. The appellate attorney is not arguing the facts of the case but the procedure and the law applied to those facts at the trial level.

Breadth of Topic

Finally, the breadth of the topic is substantially different between the trial level and appellate court. Lawyers at the trial level are arguing a very narrow topic that is specific to the case before the court. At the appellate level, the topic discussed is usually much broader. While the trial case may be the impetus for the appeal, in many cases an appellate attorney must be able to show how a ruling in this case will positively impact other cases. It is normal for appellate judges to ask hypotheticals during oral arguments to test the legal theory being presented on appeal to determine whether a ruling would be beneficial or detrimental to case law as a whole.

Call or Contact Us to Learn More

Are you considering filing an appeal in your criminal or civil case and want to speak with a knowledgeable appellate lawyer about your legal options? If so, call the office or contact us today at The Appellate Law Firm to schedule a consultation of your case now.