How To File an Appeal Case in Virginia

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If a party loses a case or is unhappy with a decision made by the trial court, the case can be appealed. Many people choose to contact an appeal lawyer. Read on to understand what an appeal lawyer does and how you can find the best one in Alexandria.

Appeals Process

A case can be appealed for a higher court to review. However, it is nothing like what most people expect. During an appeal, the higher court simply reviews the lower court’s decision. Generally, nothing new can be added to the record. Meaning no new evidence or facts can come into play. The appeal is presented by the attorney in a brief that looks like a book.

Petition for Appeal

Usually, the party wishing to challenge the decision of the trial court will first have to file a petition requesting the appeal to the appellate court.  This means that the appellate court (Court of Appeals or state Supreme Court) could simply deny the petition for appeal without any argument.  OR, the appellate court could grant the petition of appeal which means that they are willing to consider it – not necessarily that they will ultimately grant the appeal.

Brief for Appeal

If a petition of appeal is granted, then the appealing party next has to file a lengthy brief reciting the facts. That includes, what happened in the trial court, the errors they claim the trial court made, and any legal argument as to why the decision should be reversed.  Generally, appellate courts are very hesitant to substitute their judgment for the judgment of the trial judge until there is a significant error or a clear “abuse of discretion.”

The prevailing party can then file an opposition to the brief of the appealing party arguing why the trial court got it right or why the appeal should be denied.

Oral Argument

Once all of the briefs have been filed, the appellate court will usually schedule “oral argument.”  This means that both sides will get to argue their positions before a panel of 3 judges (usually).  There is rarely any new evidence or witnesses at this point – just argument.  The court will then consider the arguments and issue an opinion – often weeks or months later.

[Related: Best Criminal Defense Attorney]

Because of their complexity and very specific procedural rules, these cases are normally handled by a lawyer with extensive experience and skill in appellate research and writing.

Trial Court Appeals

In most states, the Court of Appeals reviews decisions made by the trial court (“circuit courts” in Virginia and “superior court” in DC). If you wish to appeal the ruling of the trial court, you only have 30 days to file a notice of appeal following entry of a final order. This deadline is jurisdictional. Meaning that you absolutely cannot miss the deadline.

Also, with the notice of appeal you will need to:

  • Certify that you have arranged for the transcripts of the lower court to be transmitted to the appellate court.

After the record has been received by the appellate court, you only have a certain amount of time (depending on each state) to file your petition of appeal.  This is the primary pleading that the appellate court reviews in deciding whether to even accept or “hear” an appeal.  If the petition is granted, then your case can move forward and your attorney will file a brief arguing your position.

[Related: Appealed Murder Conviction Reversed]

Meeting with an Appeal Lawyer

During your first meeting with one of our appeals lawyers, we will need to review important documents. Make sure to bring copies of the judgment and the record of the case, including transcripts of the hearing and documents presented to the court (if you have them). This will allow your attorney to decide if there is an appealable issue.

One of the biggest things that people focus on is the mistakes that their previous lawyer made during the trial. However, it’s important to remember that your appeal attorney must work with whatever is already in the record.

Appeal Lawyer in Alexandria

So, now that you understand how the process works, you can decide whether to appeal your case. However, an appeal lawyer in Alexandria isn’t just for people who lose. If you won the case but your opponent appeals the decision, you will need an appeal attorney to represent you in the appeals court. If you are considering an appeal, contact King Campbell Poretz & Mitchell today to speak with our expert attorneys.

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