The Appeal Process: Steps In A Trial

The Appeal Process: Steps in a Trial - gavel scales
Rispoli & Borneo P.C.

Accident Lawyer

Not all cases are appealed, and often, cases do not even have the grounds to file an appeal. In order to file an appeal, there must be a legal basis for the appeal, meaning that there was an error within the trial. 

In a civil case, either party may appeal to a higher court. An appeal is not a retrial or a new trial of the same case, and they usually do not consider new witnesses or evidence, as the retrial is based on arguments which were erroneously interpreted by the judge. However as an experienced ​​accident lawyer explains, not all errors of law are cause for a reversal of the decision. As long as the error made was harmless in nature and did not affect or prejudice the rights of the parties to a fair trial, the decision may still stand. Factors such as admitting improper evidence, unavailable vital witnesses, or even loss of evidence can all be factors which can eventually reverse the decision made by the lower court. 

Parts of an Appeal

The person filing the appeal, the appellant or petitioner, goes up against the other party, known as the appellant or the respondent, at which time a notice of appeal is filed. At this stage within the appeal process, the appellant must file a brief, which is a written argument containing that side’s view of the facts in order to reverse the decision, which must then be responded to by the appellant in a certain amount of time. 

Throughout the appeals process, decisions may be granted on either a written brief or an oral argument, before deciding the outcome of the case. Generally, it is up to the court’s discretion to determine whether an oral argument is necessary, or up to one of the specific parties to request such action. During an oral argument, each attorney for both sides is allotted a certain amount of time to argue the case to the court and to be questioned by the judges. While the amount of time given to each attorney can range depending on what court system it may be, including U.S. Supreme Court, State Supreme Court, or federal court, the general time can range from 10-30 minutes for each attorney to be heard. After the case is argued, the appeals court judges will meet in conference to discuss the case.

Oftentimes, written decisions will be created which can contain a new interpretation of the law and may establish a new precedent which will be used in future cases. If the entirety of the court of appeals cannot come up with a majority opinion which suits the whole council, then dissenting opinions may be created by the opposing judges. However, in the case of the court affirming the decision that was decided at the lower court’s judgment, the losing party may appeal to a higher court.


In a civil case, an appeal does not prevent the enforcement of the original trial court’s judgment, and the winning party may order the judgment to be executed. The appealing party may file a supersedes bond, which will prevent further action on the judgment until the appeal is over, ultimately guaranteeing that the appealing party will pay if the judgment is not reversed on appeal.

Thanks to Eglet Adams for their insight on the appeals process.