The Appellate Stage


Either party or both parties to a civil suit can appeal from a judgment if they are not satisfied with the decision.  An appeal is a legal proceeding in which the appellant resorts to a higher court against a lower court decision.  On appeal the appellate court can affirm the judgment, refuse to hear the appeal, reverse, or vacate and remand.  The appellate court may also remand the case to the lower trial court to address an unresolved issue, or possibly for a whole new trial. 

The appeal process starts with filing the notice of appeal in the trial court within a specified time.  The trial court then prepares the records and sends to parties and the appellate court.  After filing a copy of the notice with the appellate court and the original records the parties file written briefs.  Upon screening and reviewing the case, the case is calendered and assigned to the justice.  Thereafter oral argument is held and written opinion is filed.  After an appeal is finally decided, the case is transferred back to the trial court.  The appellate court then issues a document called a ‘remittitur’  which notifies the trial court that the appellate court judgment is final.  Remittitur specifies any entitlement to recovery of costs on appeal and  is accompanied by a file-stamped copy of the appellate court’s opinion or order.  The delay between filing of the appellate court’s decision and issuance of the remittitur is intended to permit petitions for rehearing and Supreme Court review.

Appeals are usually based on arguments that there were errors in the trial procedure or errors in the judge’s interpretation of the law.  Sometimes, appellate courts make their decision only on the basis of the written briefs. The appellant cannot introduce new facts upon appeal.  The facts presented at the trial court level cannot be changed in an appellate court. 

 An appeal does not ordinarily prevent the enforcement of the trial court’s judgment.  The party who has the favorable judgment may order the judgment executed.  However, the opposite party can file an appeal or a supersedeas bond that stays further action on the judgment while the appeal is pending.  The supersedeas bond guarantees that the appellant will pay or perform the judgment if it is not reversed on appeal.