What Materials Do Appellate Attorneys Rely On?
Whether you privately retain an appellate attorney or are appointed one by the court, one of the first things your appellate attorney will request is the entire case file. Many people are surprised to find that it can cost hundreds of dollars to obtain all documents in a case file. This often prompts individuals to wonder, what does an appellate attorney really need? In short, the answer is usually everything.
Appellate attorneys review cases to determine whether there are grounds for appeal – such as errors made by an attorney, the judge, or the jury – from which to request post-conviction relief. In order to find every potential issue, the attorney must review the entire record. This includes:
- The full court record, including all pleadings, minutes, and orders,
- The full trial attorney file, including discovery, notes, correspondence, and documentation related to past convictions (if any), and
- Transcripts of every hearing that was recorded, such as pretrial, plea, sentencing, and trial hearings.
Each of these items carry their own significance. For example, pleadings contained in the court file reveal what issues existed at the trial level, and how they were resolved. Additionally, if there was a trial, the trial transcripts reveal important details such as what objections were made and how they were handled.
These materials are vital to an appeal because appeals are based completely on the record. Every fact within an appeal must have a corresponding citation to a document in the record. Except in limited circumstances, appellate courts will not consider new witnesses or new evidence.
Additionally, appellate attorneys often discuss the case with the trial level attorney, as well. These conversations are important because the trial level attorney will likely already have ideas as to what issues there may be for appeal.
Perhaps most importantly, appellate attorneys rely on conversations with you, the client. Conversations with the client inform the attorney of what the goal of appellate representation should be, and provide important insight and details on the case.