Orlando Appeals Lawyers
Our Experienced Defense Attorneys Handle Criminal Appeals for Clients
All cases begin and eventually end in the trial court once a decision or ruling has been made. The judge may dismiss the case early in the litigation, issue a final judgment, or a conviction could be entered after a full trial. When the trial portion is concluded, a party who is dissatisfied with the outcome (typically the losing side, but sometimes even the winning side) may have grounds for an appeal. This simply means that the case may be eligible for review by a higher court to look for mistakes of law that occurred at the trial level. However, appeals do not only apply to trials. Appellate attorneys may file an appeal for an illegal sentence, a motion against them, or an interlocutory appeal.
An appeal typically begins with filing a notice of appeal in the trial court. The party appealing — known as the "appellant" — must also designate an appellate record. The appellate record consists of materials from the trial court that the appellant would like to present to the appellate court and use in appeal.
NeJame Law has skilled and knowledgeable attorneys to handle criminal appeals, either from current clients after the trial phase or new clients with reason to appeal a decision in the lower court.
Standards of Appellate Review
In Florida, there are three standards of appellate review for trial court litigation. They are:
- Abuse of Discretion: This is applied to discretionary rulings made by the trial judge.
- Rational Basis: This is used to review a jury verdict.
- Clearly Erroneous: This is used to review a trial judge’s fact findings.
- De Novo: This is used to review rulings on questions of law.
Appellate courts do not retry cases or hear new evidence. Instead, appellate courts review what occurred in the trial court to see if the proper procedures were followed, and the proper law was applied. Because of the limited nature of appellate review, the issues properly raised on appeal can be significantly different from those that are raised at trial.
The appellate court will usually defer to the trial court or jury on factual issues. However, the appellate court has the final word on what the law is. On issues of law — for example, the interpretation of a statute or the Constitution — the appellate court will not defer to the trial court but will instead independently decide the issue.
On an appeal from a judgment after a trial, the appellate court will only reverse the judgment if it finds the trial court committed legal errors that were prejudicial during the trial. Examples of such legal errors include the trial court giving bad jury instructions, admitting or excluding certain evidence, and failing to follow proper procedures. If the appellate court finds such legal errors, the court will then determine whether these errors were prejudicial. A legal error is considered prejudicial only if there is some reasonable chance that it was likely to have affected the result in the case. Thus, minor legal errors are usually not grounds for a reversal.
Appellate Panel and Oral Argument
An appellate panel decides appeals. Usually, the appellate panel is an
intermediate appellate court that consists of three judges chosen randomly
from the pool of available appellate judges on the courts. In appeals
to state supreme courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, the entire court usually
hears the appeal.
Once the briefing is completed, the appellate court may hear oral arguments from the attorneys representing both sides. Not all cases have oral arguments, so it is important to retain an appellate attorney who is skilled in both oral and written argument. The time between the close of briefing and oral argument varies tremendously between different courts. By the time of oral argument, the judges on most appellate courts will have read the briefs and thoroughly considered the issues. At the close of oral argument, the case is submitted to the appellate court for a decision.
In the federal courts and some state courts, the court may choose to decide a case without the hearing oral arguments.
The appellate panel will sometimes issue a written opinion explaining why it reached the decision that it did. If the appellate court deems it appropriate, the written opinion will be published in the official reports and will be binding authority for litigants in the future.
Review by a Higher Court
A party who is dissatisfied with the results of an appeal can petition
a higher appellate court to review the case. In most states, this would
be the state supreme court. In the federal system, it is the U.S. Supreme
Court (if a federal issue is involved, the U.S. Supreme Court can take
cases from the state appellate courts).
With a few exceptions (like death penalty appeals), the state supreme courts and the U.S. Supreme Court are not required to take any particular case; they choose what cases they will decide. Consequently, the petition asking the higher court to take review must be carefully drafted, as the vast majority of cases seeking review from a state supreme court are denied. Moreover, if there is no written opinion and the appellate court has affirmed the trial court decision per curiam, then the case cannot be appealed.
Contact an Attorney
NeJame Law has experienced and trained appellate lawyers who can handle all types of state and federal appeals. Our lawyers are educated regarding evolving legal issues and are trained to be cognizant and knowledgeable of existing precedent. If you are in need of a law firm that handles appellate cases throughout Orlando, the State of Florida and, in certain instances, throughout the United States, please feel free to contact us.