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In law, an appeal is a process for making a formal challenge to an official decision. Depending on circumstances, appeals may be made to the same authority or to a higher judicial authority.[1] In common law jurisdictions, most commonly, this means formally filing a notice of appeal with a lower court, indicating one's intention to take the matter to the next higher court with jurisdiction over the matter and then actually filing the appeal with the appropriate appellate court.

Who can appeal

A party who files an appeal is called an appellant or petitioner, and a party on the other side is an appellee or respondent. Cross-appeals can also occur, when more than one party to a case is unhappy with the decision in some way, often when the winning party claims that more damages were deserved than were awarded.[2]

The appellant is the party who, having lost part or all their claim in a lower court decision, is appealing to a higher court with appellate jurisdiction to have their case reconsidered. This is usually done on the basis that the lower court judge erred in the application of law, but it may also be possible to appeal on the basis of court misconduct or that a finding of fact was entirely unreasonable to make on the evidence.[3]

The appellant in the new case can be either the plaintiff (or claimant), defendant or respondent (appellee) from the lower case, depending on who was the losing party. The winning party from the lower court, however, is now the respondent. In unusual cases the appellant can be the victor in the court below, but still appeal.[4]

An appellee is the party to an appeal in which the lower court judgment was in its favor. The appellee is required to respond to the petition, oral arguments and legal briefs of the appellant. In general, the appellee takes the procedural posture that the lower court's decision should be affirmed.[5]

Decisions on appeal

The appellant's case is normally reviewed by a panel of judges at the appellate level. These judges will look at the "record" from the lower court. This record is the documentation of the case, including all the pleadings, motions, and memoranda filed with the court, transcripts from pre-trial, trial, and post-trial hearings, and trial exhibits. Other than the written brief submitted by each party and the oral argument, if applicable, the appeallate judges cannot go beyond this record in making its decision.[6]

After reviewing the case, the appellate court can choose to affirm or uphold the lower court's judgment, reverse the lower court's judgment entirely and remand (or return) the case to the lower court for a new trial, or affirm in part and reverse in part the lower court's judgment and remand the case to the lower court to correct an issue (the part the appellate court reversed).[7]

Types of appeals

All appeals are either "as of right" or discretionary. As the name implies, "as of right" means that the appellant is legally entitled, or has a right, to the appeal. These appeals are taken at the resolution of a case, once a judgment has become final. Discretionary appeals, also as the name implies, means these appeals are taken at the discretion of the appellate court that will hear the case. The appellant must move, or ask, the appellate court for permission to appeal. The appellate court may then either grant or deny that request. All appeals heard by the United States Supreme Court are discretionary. Parties submit a petition to the Court known as writs of certiorari.[8]

See also

Ballotpedia:Index of Terms