Appellate work should not be thought of as another trial in a different setting for the lawyer. Appellate courts sit in judgment of trial courts; almost all appellate judges or justices have been trial court judges in another life. The party seeking to have the trial court’s decision overturned must have more than hurt feelings or disappointment to offer as a reason for the appellate court to reverse the trial court’s decision.
Evaluating the appellate merits of a potential appeal is fundamental to advising a client well, and the client making an informed decision about whether or not to pursue an appeal. The evaluation includes not only reviewing the transcripts of the trial court proceedings and researching the possible issues, weak and strong. The process also includes being familiar with the outlook of the particular judges who may be assigned to the client’s panel (in the case of courts of appeal), or the justices currently serving (in a supreme court case), based on previous opinions.
A client may have the right of appeal, but perfecting that right is something else altogether. Each appellate court has its own, unique rules about filing and format. Any violation of any of these requirements can result in delay or dismissal of the appeal. Success on the merits assumes the appellate court actually gets to the merits; a thorough familiarity with the myriad of changing technical requirements (including efiling in the federal court system) is vital to perfecting the appeal for consideration. If a party’s written arguments (brief) are not properly prepared and filed, the appellate court will not read them. If a party’s brief is not filed timely, that party may lose the ability to make oral arguments to the appellate court in addition to their brief.
Bregman & Welch has extensive and successful experience in representing clients in civil appellate cases at all levels in the state and federal systems.