Law Offices of Michael A. Brewer is a Litigation Law Firm with a Difference
Simply put, the attorneys of Law Offices of Michael A. Brewer make a difference because of our extensive courtroom experience. Many litigation firms handling document intensive, complex litigation are good at civil discovery, document management, law and motion work, and negotiating settlements. At Law Offices of Michael A. Brewer, we do all that, and we do it exceedingly well. The main difference, however, between other litigation firms and Law Offices of Michael A. Brewer is our skill and experience in the courtroom. This allows us to more accurately evaluate the merits of a case or a defense, to understand what arguments work and don’t work in front of juries, to value cases and exposure because of the many and diverse matters which we have handled and tried over the years and most importantly, to obtain demonstrably higher settlements and verdicts for our clients as we have been doing for the past 30 years. If this is the type of firm you are looking for and are in need of legal services, please contact or email us using our online contact form for assistance. Take a moment to click on the following link to access our litigation newsletter, which will give you general information on the appellate process.
The Appellate Process
Litigation and appeals are fundamental to our adversarial legal system. Litigation – the process of bringing a case to trial – includes everything from the pretrial procedures to a settlement or judgment. Although some types of appeals can take place during the litigation process(called writs), appeals generally occur after a decision has been reached by a judge or jury.
Whether in state or federal court, trial and appellate courts perform different functions. At trial, the parties present evidence to a judge or jury to support their legal claims thereby creating a trial record. After a decision has been reached at trial, the losing party may choose to appeal the decision to the appropriate appellate court. For example, if a defendant is found liable in a civil trial in a us district court, that defendant may wish to appeal the decision to the appropriate federal court of appeals.
On appeal, the court may generally consider only legal issues and with few exceptions, the trial record established in the original trial cannot be altered. In other words, appellate courts do not simply retry cases, rehear witnesses testify or reweigh the evidence produced during the trial.
The primary function of an appellate court is to review the application of law to the facts established at trial, and determine whether the trial court made appropriate legal rulings within that framework. An appellate court will usually have the transcripts of all the testimony given at trial, along with copies of all evidence and exhibits admitted into evidence, which they will use to determine whether the trial court made any significant legal errors, such as improperly admitting evidence or improperly applying the law to the facts as presented. Not all issues at trial may be brought before the appellate court; to be considered on appeal, a legal issue usually must have been preserved at trial. While appellate courts may sometimes review the factual findings of the trial court, in most situations these findings are only overturned if they are found to be “clearly erroneous.”
In the federal system, appeals are usually decided by a panel of three justices. Most states use a similar system, although the number of justices involved in the decision-making may differ. The party filing the appeal – referred to as the appellant – will file a written argument with the appellate court, known as a brief. In this document, the appellant will attempt to convince the court that some aspect of the decision at trial should be reversed. At the same time, the party defending the trial court’s decision – referred to as the respondent – will also file a brief, arguing that the prior decision should be upheld.
Along with the written briefs, often an appellate court will give the parties the opportunity to come before the court for oral arguments. During oral arguments, each party will be given a limited amount of time to argue his or her position before the sitting justices. The justices will usually ask a number of questions to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the positions of the appellant and respondent. Attorneys for the two sides will sometimes be allowed to make a brief opening or closing statement. The entire process generally only lasts for thirty minutes or so, after which the justices will retire to their chambers to discuss the case.
Once an appellate court has reached a decision, one of the justices who participated in the hearings will usually author a document setting forth the legal and factual basis for the court’s opinion. If the court elects to publish this opinion, the decision becomes the basis for future cases concerning the same issue. The appellate court will generally then remand the case back to the trial level for further proceedings consistent with the holding of its opinion.
Only a small percentage of cases heard by trial courts are appealed to the next level. For those that are appealed, the decision of the appellate court is often the final word in the case. In a small number of cases, though, either the appellant or respondent may feel that the decision made by the appeals court was in error. In these situations, the case may sometimes be appealed yet again, usually to either the relevant state supreme court or, in federal cases, to the United States supreme court.
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