How Do You Appeal a Case?

By Peter DePaolis

Washington, D.C. Appellate Attorneys Explain What Happens After Trial

Parties in civil cases can appeal a decision made by a judicial court or administrative court if the judge or jury made a legal error. Our country has a number of federal and state courts specifically set up for correcting wrong decisions made at lower level courts. Sometimes, the end of a trial is the beginning of a much longer appeals process, possibly going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Can Decisions Regarding Union Workers be Appealed?

CNN has filed an intent to appeal a decision made by an administrative law judge at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The decision ordered CNN to rehire over 100 unionized workers and to compensate certain workers for lost wages within 14 days of the decision.

CNN’s appeal will go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Unfortunately for the workers, this will delay the rehiring and back-pay they would receive until the appeal is resolved.

What Happens When You Appeal a Court Decision?

An individual, union or company must allege a legal error in the original decision to have an argument for an appeal. There are strict time limits that an appellant must follow after the court or administrative agency enters a final judgment. The time period may be different, depending on the state, the court and the issue.

Once an appeal is filed, the appellate court will first decide if it wishes to even hear the case. Appellate courts do not hear every appeals case that is filed before them; there must be a legal error alleged. Appellate judges will not revisit the facts or evidence in a case. Instead, they will review court records, trial testimony and legal procedures.

Appeals lawyers will draft a brief alleging the legal errors that occurred in the case. Sometimes, courts will decide the case on the written briefs alone. Other times, they may require oral arguments. In an appeal, witnesses do not testify. The attorneys will argue the case and answer the judges’ questions.

Finally, the appellate court will make a final decision:

  • It can uphold the lower court’s decision
  • It can decide the outcome of the case itself
  • It can send (remand) the case back to the lower court to re-try an issue or the entire case

If CNN wishes to appeal the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s decision regarding the union worker case, it can make an attempt. Generally, the higher up a case goes in the appellate courts, the less likely it is that the higher court agrees to hear the case. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court annually receives about 7,000 requests for appeal (called “Writs of Certiorari”), but only hears about 100-150 cases per term.

Looking to Appeal a Case?

Appellate rules can vary in D.C. and from state to state. The important thing to know if you wish to appeal a case is you must speak with a qualified appellate attorney. Find an attorney who has experience practicing at the appellate level.  It is essential to seek out an appeals lawyer as soon as possible, as the correct protocols, timing and legal arguments must be considered to have the court take on your case.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.