1. Home
  2.  | Civil & Criminal Appeals

Making A Strong Case In Appeal

Appeals are much different than trial work. They involve different procedures, rules and objectives. The purpose of an appeal is to correct an error at trial – whether a misinterpretation of the law, a misapplication of the law, an abuse of discretion or other problematic rulings.

I’m Colin Hardacre, an appellate lawyer based in Calabasas. I handle both civil and criminal appeals across Los Angeles. I’m admitted to California state courts as well as the federal appeals courts for the 9th and 6th Circuits.

Understanding The Appellate Process

Appeals begin with filing a notice of appeal, which must be done within a strict timeframe and with the appropriate appellate court. The process then revolves around preparing written arguments – called briefs – based on the lower court proceedings. In many cases, the final step in the process is an oral argument before a panel of appellate court judges.

There is no trial on appeal. Rather, the appellate court’s review is limited to the specific issues raised on appeal.

Why You Need An Experienced Appellate Attorney

Appeals can be challenging, especially if you’re the one appealing (the “appellant”). Not many lawyers handle appeals. A botched appeal can not only be costly from a financial perspective, but it can also cost you your opportunity to get a more favorable outcome.

I have extensive experience in appellate work, including appealing adverse rulings in criminal cases and handling appeals stemming from civil litigation. Because I’m also a strong trial lawyer, I know how to identify errors in trial court proceedings. I know how to comb through detailed trial court rulings and records to pinpoint strong grounds for appeal.

Legal research and writing – both of which are central to the appellate process – are among my key strengths. I understand how to craft well-researched persuasive briefs that comply with the many nuanced requirements of appellate court rules.

Answers To Common Questions About Legal Appeals In California

The work and procedures of appellate courts are not as commonly understood as those of superior courts (also called trial courts). Below, I’ve provided answers to questions I am often asked by prospective clients.

What are the possible outcomes of a criminal appeal?

There are three courses of action an appellate court may take after hearing an appeal. The first option is disappointing for defendants: The court may simply affirm the trial court’s ruling, in which case the original verdict stands.

If the appellate court reverses the trial court’s ruling, it can do so in two ways. The first is to “reverse and vacate.” When this occurs, the appellate court reverses the verdict and throws the case out. If you are already incarcerated following the original ruling, you would be released. While this is the outcome defendants usually want the most, its important to note that prosecutors still have the option to retry the case from scratch.

The appellate court can also “reverse and remand.” While this reverses the original decision, it doesn’t end your case. Instead, the case is remanded (sent back) to the lower court to be reviewed and reconsidered, often with instructions for what needs to change.

What is an appeal in a civil case?

As mentioned above, an appeal is not a do-over of a trial. Litigants cannot demand an appeal just because they didn’t agree with the outcome of the case. Instead, an appeal is granted only when there is reason to believe that the trial court erred in some significant way that could have impacted the outcome of the case. These are referred to as “material errors,” as opposed to harmless errors.

In a civil suit, either the plaintiff or defendant may seek an appeal. Common grounds for granting an appeal include assertions that:

  • The judge misapplied the law or made a similar legal error.
  • There were problems with evidence, such as a judge’s decision to allow evidence that should have been excluded or vice versa.
  • One party’s constitutional rights were violated by the manner in which the law was applied.

Appellate courts are often hesitant to second guess the decisions of superior court judges. Therefore, in order to succeed, your appellate lawyer needs to have a strong command of the relevant facts and the ability to argue convincingly.

What is the highest court of civil appeals?

The highest appellate court in America is the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). It is very unlikely that your case would make it before the nation’s highest court for at least two reasons. First, the only appeals eligible to go before SCOTUS are those that either originated in federal court or those that originated in state court but concern a federal law.

Second, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have discretion over which cases SCOTUS will hear. Each year, the Court is asked to review more than 7,000 cases, and fewer than 1% are accepted and heard.

The Supreme Court of California is our state’s highest appellate court for both criminal and civil matters. With few exceptions, the high court will review cases after they have gone through courts of appeal.

Reach Out For Guidance If You’re Considering Or Facing An Appeal

I can advise you of whether you have strong grounds for appeal and, if you’re already facing an appeal, I can help you develop a powerful strategy. To get in touch, please contact my firm, The Law Offices of Colin A. Hardacre, APC, in Calabasas. You can also call me at 818-303-2211.