Appeals Take a Special Type of Skills, Even Among Attorneys


Many people don't understand what actually happens during an appeal.

First, appeals are not new trials. That means:

-- The evidence presented at your original hearing isn't going to be reheard unless it is relevant to your appeal.

-- You generally cannot admit evidence into an appeal that wasn't admitted during the trial.

-- Appeals are fought mostly on paper. There may be a very brief hearing where the attorney answers questions or no hearing at all. A poorly crafted written argument will fail.

-- You won't get a whole new trial at all at the appellate level no matter what -- although the court does have the authority to send the case back to the lower court to either be reopened entirely or to address a specific error in the case.

-- Appeals cannot be filed simply because you don't like the outcome of a case. You have to find some part of the case that violates your rights or violates the law in order to successfully appeal.

-- If you fail to find a violation of your rights or the law, the appellate court will simply uphold the original decision.

For example, a court in California recently denied the appeal of a man whose attorney withdrew 13 days before a hearing on both a domestic violence charge and a divorce.

The appellant never told the court his attorney had quit nor asked for an extension. Instead, he chose to appear without his attorney at the hearing and go it alone -- perhaps because he thought the job didn't seem that difficult.

The trial judge carefully walked the man through the trail, explaining what was happening as they went. She personally guided him through his testimony, answered his questions about an item of evidence and even explained things like how a closing argument differed from an opening statement.

Due to the judge's prudence, the appellate court found that the man was not harmed, even though he was unhappy with the judgment.

Appeals are difficult to manage for attorneys who aren't experienced in them, simply because appeals require a different set of skills than those used in actual trials. Before you proceed with a family law appeal, make sure that your attorney is comfortable with the appellate process. For more information on how our firm can help you through these issues, please visit our web page.

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