What are Appeals and When are They Filed?

The primary objective of an appeal is to give an aggrieved party recourse to a superior tribunal for the correction of the judgment of an inferior court. In most jurisdictions, a party to the litigation has an unqualified right to appeal from an adverse final judgment without the need to demonstrate a direct monetary interest.

Generally, an appellate court is bound to adjudge a case before it in accordance with the law existing at the time of its decision. However, if the law has changed since the suit was filed, the court may have to apply the law as it existed at the time the suit was filed.

Specific time restrictions are placed on a party seeking to appeal the decision of a lower court. In most jurisdictions, these restrictions may be 30-60 days depending on the type of appeal that is filed. In one type of appeal, a party can suspend an action to collect the judgment until the court of appeal can decide the case. This may require the appealing party to post a bond to protect the non appealing party from missing a chance to collect the judgment. In some jurisdictions, this is known as a suspensive appeal, or an appeal which suspends the execution of the judgment. This is the type of appeal that has a shorter period, in most jurisdictions, 30 days to file.

The second type of appeal allows the party who received the judgment to attempt to collect on the judgment while the appeals court decides the issues. In some jurisdictions, this is known as a devolutive appeal. The deadline for filing this type of appeal is usually longer than the deadline to file a suspensive appeal, usually 60 days.

In most jurisdictions, the court of appeal is not at liberty to reverse any decision of the lower court (either a verdict from a jury or judge), even if they disagree with the verdict. The issue to be resolved is not whether the jury or judge was wrong, but whether the conclusions were reasonable. A lower court’s findings of fact cannot be reversed on appeal unless the appealing party, (the appellant), demonstrates that a reasonable basis does not exist for the finding of the trial court and the finding is clearly wrong. Thus, a court of appeal will usually defer to the trial court regarding factual findings and not reverse the decision unless it is manifestly erroneous.

This is also true with respect to the determination of fault. An appellate court will generally not disturb a lower court’s allocation of fault between the parties unless it too is clearly wrong or manifestly erroneous. 

An appellate court will review a lower court’s determination of law without giving the deference it gives to issues of fact. Thus, unlike factual determinations, if the court of appeals disagrees with the lower court’s application of law, it can reverse the decision.

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