There are few things more frustrating than a negative outcome in court. Whether it is a civil matter, a family matter, or a criminal case, an adverse judgment is not necessarily the end of the line. Courts make errors. The appeals provide parties with an option to seek a remedy. 

At the same time, appellate law is complex. Many people do not even know where to start when preparing an appeal. In this article, our California appellate law attorney highlights the typical steps in the appeals process in California. 

Step #1: Consult With a California Appellate Lawyer

Appellate law is complicated. There are unique rules and procedures regarding the appellate process in California. It would be a major mistake to view an appeal as a “re-trial.” It is not. Instead, it is an opportunity to bring material legal errors to the attention of the court. 

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is proceeding without guidance from an experienced appellate lawyer. It is a best practice to consult with a California appellate law attorney as soon as possible after an adverse decision was rendered  

Step #2: File a Notice of Appeal

You must file a notice of appeal in order to preserve your appeal to bring an appeal. As explained by The Judicial Branch of California, a notice of appeal is the document that “begins the entire appeals process.” There is a very strict deadline to file a notice of appeal. If you wait too long to act, you may miss out on your opportunity to challenge an unfavorable verdict/judgment. In California, the deadline to file a notice of appeal depends on the specific nature of the case: 

  • Criminal Appeals: In California, you typically have 60 days to file a notice of appeal in a felony criminal case. However, in a misdemeanor criminal case you typically only have 30 days to initiate your appeal. 
  • Civil Appeals: In California, the deadline to file a civil appeal is the earliest of the following two timelines: 60 days after the court clerk officially serves a Notice of Entry of a civil judgment or 180 days after the entry of that judgment. 

Step #3: Pay the Applicable Filing Fee

A fee must be paid to file an appeal in California. It is imperative that you pay that applicable filing fee in a timely manner. If you fail to pay the filing for your appeal in a timely manner, then your case may not be heard by the appellate court. In some circumstances, parties may be eligible to get their fees waived. Here is California’s official guide to appellate court fees and fee waivers

Step #4: Obtain the Trial Transcripts 

It is important to re-emphasize that an appeal is not a retrial. There are major implications to this fact. An appellate court will generally not hear new evidence nor will it allow additional testimony. Instead, the appellate court is largely restricted to reviewing the record that already exists. A key step in the appeals process is ordering/obtaining the trial transcripts. Depending on the complexity of your civil or criminal case, transcripts can be expensive. 

Step #5: Prepare and Submit the Appellate Brief 

The appellate brief is the most important aspect of your appeal. In effect, an appellate brief is your opportunity to lay out your grounds for appeal and explain to the court why you should be entitled to relief. Among other things, an appellate brief should include the following: 


  • A table of contents; 
  • A table of citations; 
  • An overview of the questions/issues at stake;
  • A statement of the case (history and facts); 
  • A summary of your argument, including grounds for appeal; 
  • The more comprehensive discussion (details of your argument); and
  • A conclusion that calls for relief. 

Step #6: Be Ready for Oral Argument (If Applicable)  

Finally, there may be a limited oral argument in your appeal. To be clear, oral arguments are rarely a major part of civil or criminal appeals in California. Instead, the appellate brief is far more important. Still, the hearing and/or any oral argument is still something to consider. Your California appellate lawyer will ensure that you are prepared. 

Contact Our California Appellate Law Attorneys for Help 

At The Appellate Law Firm, our California appellate lawyers are here to protect your rights and help you find the best solution. If you have any questions or concerns about the steps in the appeals process, we are here as a resource. Contact us today to set up a fully confidential consultation. We provide criminal/civil appellate law representation throughout California, including in Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Beach, San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, Fresno, Sacramento, and Bakersfield. 

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