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Parties to a criminal or civil case generally have the right to appeal an adverse decision—but doing so can be challenging. To bring a successful appeal, you need to know exactly what the judge wants to see. This raises an important question: What do courts review on appeal? In this article, our criminal and civil appeals lawyers answer the question by explaining the key things to know about how appellate law works, including what judges look for when reviewing a case. 

An Appeal is Not a Re-Trial: Know What the Court is Looking for on Review

As emphasized by the American Bar Association (ABA), “an appeal is not a retrial or a new trial of the case.” This is the most important thing to understand about state-level appeals (California, Washington, etc) and federal appeals. Appellate judges are not rehearing the case. Instead, they generally conduct more limited review of the case records and the legal process to check for serious legal errors. Here are some of the common things that judges are looking for on appeal: 

  • Errors of Law: The majority of successful appeals are filed on the grounds of an error of law. An appellate judge can review the legal standard (and other laws) applied by the lower court to ensure that the decision was proper. 
  • Abuse of Judicial of Discretion: Judges have certain discretion. When a lower court abuses its discretion, that could be grounds of appeal. Appellate courts have the authority to review the discretion used by a lower court judge—including the evidence that was allowed in (and excluded) from trial. 
  • Procedural Issues: Appellate judges will also review other procedural matters to ensure justice and fairness. As an example, a party could raise an ineffective assistance of counsel claim as the basis of an appeal. 
  • Constitutionality: Finally, constitutional matters can be raised on appeal. If an adverse decision amounts to a violation of your rights under the U.S. Constitution, you can challenge the issue on appeal. Though, these are often the most difficult types of appeal. 

To summarize, appellate judges are not interested (nor empowered) to rehear an entire case from start to finish. Instead, an appeals court is tasked with reviewing a lower court’s decision to determine if there were any errors in or misapplication of law, abuses of judicial discretion, procedural problems, or constitutional violations. If you or your loved one received an unfavorable verdict in a criminal or civil case, an appellate law attorney can help you assess grounds for appeal. 

Schedule a Confidential Consultation With an Appellate Lawyer

At The Appellate Law Firm, our appellate law attorneys provide passionate, knowledgeable advocacy to our clients. If you have any specific questions about what appellate judges look for when reviewing a case, we are here to help. Contact us today for a confidential, no obligation initial appointment with an attorney. Our firm handles criminal and civil appeals in California, Washington, Oregon, Michigan, Ohio, and several other jurisdictions. 

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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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