Understanding the
Civil Appeals Process

Picture this: you or your business has just been on the “losing” side of a civil trial. Generally, this means that the final decision went the opposite way of what you wanted — whether that involved not winning your case against another person or entity, or losing a case brought against you or your business.

Is there any way to revisit or reverse that decision? In California, as is the case in all states and federal jurisdictions, the option to appeal a judge or jury’s decision is always available. However, an appeal can present several legal challenges that you will need to consider before filing for an appeal.

If you live in the San Francisco area, contact the Law Offices of David H. Schwartz, INC. for a review and consultation. Attorney David H. Schwartz centers his practice on business litigation issues and is an accomplished appellate lawyer who handled countless civil cases. With over 45 years of experience, attorney David H. Schwartz will ensure that your appeal will get the professional expertise and attention it deserves.

How the Civil Appeals Process Works

So you’ve just found yourself on what you consider to be the “wrong end” of a civil judgment, and you want to change or reverse that decision. Your first instinct is to file an appeal to get matters to go your way. However, the appeals process does not entail a retrial or provide the opportunity to introduce new evidence or witness testimony. It involves a review of the trial record to find a legal basis to challenge the final decision.

To bring your case in front of a Court of Appeals, you must get an attorney to file a brief documenting a legal or procedural error that occurred during the trial. For instance, you could argue that the judge allowed evidence that he shouldn’t have, or that he gave misleading or wrong instructions to the jury.

Appeals are generally heard by a three-judge panel. Your attorney and the other party’s attorney might get a short time, usually 15 minutes, to present oral arguments and answer questions. However, the panel can also choose to decide matters based on legal briefs alone — yours and the opposing party’s.

The judges reviewing your case may find that there were errors, but that they were harmless and didn’t affect the outcome. They may also conclude that the outcome was “reasonable” — or they could find that the errors were prejudicial or harmful. The appeals panel can then affirm or reverse the court’s decision, or send the issue back to the judge with instructions to review the decision. 

Generally, appellate decisions are often final, though you can file a motion for rehearing or review. At the end of the whole process, appeals can be made to the state Supreme Court, but that court is not required to accept all petitions.

When Should You Appeal?

Appeals are not a slam dunk, though civil appeals generally stand a higher chance of success than criminal appeals. You may want to appeal a decision simply because you think the decision was wrong or the monetary damages awarded were too high, but remember: you can’t retry the case or introduce new evidence or testimony.

On appeal, you must find a legal transgression or omission during the trial upon which to base your appeal, which includes what is called the “substantial evidence” standard. Under this standard, you can attempt to show that the evidence didn’t support the court’s finding. Presenting a compelling legal brief pointing out errors of one sort or another is typically the first hurdle.

Next, you need to consider the time and cost involved in an appeal. Not only will you have to pay your attorney, but if the judgment you’re appealing includes a monetary reward, the Court of Appeals will demand what is called a “cost bond.” Generally, this sum is calculated at one-and-a-half times the damages you owe. For example, say the judge or jury ordered you to pay $100,000 to another person or firm. The cost bond, or appeals bond, would then be calculated to one-and-a-half times the original figure, resulting in $150,000 owed.

Finally, the appeals process can be lengthy, taking months or even years to reach a final decision. Appeals often require extreme patience, stamina, and financial resources to see them through to the end.

Rely on an AccomplishedAppellate Litigation Attorney

Simply writing the legal brief can be a time-consuming and challenging prospect. Newer or less experienced attorneys may have to spend inordinate amounts of time performing research, and many lack the experience and expertise needed to focus on the most compelling legal issue, or argument.

That’s why it is imperative that you seek out an accomplished and experienced appellate litigation attorney. With over four decades of business litigation and appellate experience, attorney David H. Schwartz has the knowledge and experience needed to pursue an appeal in the San Francisco area, or nearby in Santa Clara, San Jose, Oakland, or San Mateo, California.

Attorney Schwartz will work with you to thoroughly review the trial record and identify any issues that could serve as the basis for a successful appeal. He will then draft a compelling legal brief and represent you diligently during the entire appeals process from start to finish. If you or someone you know is considering an appeal, contact the Law Offices of David H. Schwartz, INC. today for an initial consultation.


Recent Posts