Civil Appeals

Appellate courts are called “courts of last resort” for a reason – at no other time in the litigation process are decisions so critical, so final. That is why it is imperative to choose an appellate lawyer who can maximize your chances of prevailing. Alderman Law Firm attorneys have both the expertise and experience to assist you in perfecting your argument on appeal.

Due to the nature of appellate representation, distance is no barrier to effective representation. The Alderman Law Firm has represented litigants on appeal statewide and will currently take private appeals in both Wisconsin and Colorado, and several federal courts.

If you wish to challenge a criminal conviction, please visit our page on Criminal Appeals.

What Is a Civil Appeal?

Through a civil appeal, a litigant asks the Court of Appeals to reverse a final judgment or decision made by the trial court. Appellate arguments are often based on complex legal interpretations. To locate “appealable issues,” in your case, you must carefully review the written record for procedural errors.

A civil appeal is not an opportunity to re-litigate your case. The appellate judges are there to review for errors made during the process, not to second-guess the trial court’s decision by looking at the same evidence and making their own determination. The singular exception to this rule is when the Court of Appeals applies a de novo standard of review to a particular issue or case.

Where Do I Start?

The first and most important step is to file a timely notice of appeal. The deadline to file this notice is calculated from the trial court’s final order.

If you are certain that you would like to file an appeal, you should file your notice of appeal and pay the filing fee (and, if applicable, bond) immediately. The state court system provides the appropriate forms online, but it is always best to have counsel execute the notice of appeal for you so you can be sure it is filed properly, as there are many nuances. You may have your trial counsel file the notice for you, even if you intend to proceed with an appellate attorney.

What Happens After I File My Notice of Appeal?

Soon after filing a notice of appeal, you must file and serve your designation of record, which defines which documents and transcripts will be sent from the trial court to the court of appeals. Then, the trial court will compile and transfer the record, at which point the court of appeals will issue a briefing schedule. From there, you will file and serve an opening brief, to which your opponent may respond, and then you may reply to the response. Obviously, if there is a cross-appeal, this becomes a little more complicated. There are strict formatting and content requirements for court of appeals filings which are contained in the appellate rules, and are best navigated by qualified appellate counsel.

You may request the court of appeals hear oral arguments on your appeal. If you don’t request oral argument, the court of appeals may sua sponte order it, although this is unusual. Typically, the court will decide your appeal on the briefs alone. If you do request oral argument, and that request is granted, arguments will be scheduled and a decision will be rendered following those arguments.

There are a multitude of forms available on the court of appeals website and internet generally to assist you in properly drafting the various components of your brief, but it is always most advantageous to have a qualified appellate attorney draft, file, and argue your brief(s).

What If The Court Of Appeals Denies My Appeal?

If your appeal is denied, you may ask the state supreme court to review your case. Although you have the right to request such review, the supreme court is not required to hear your case. The majority of petitions for certiorari are denied — nearly 95%. If you can get past the very high hurdle of a petition for certiorari such that the supreme court is willing to hear your argument, you stand a better chance of having your appeal succeed.

If you wish to ask the supreme to review your case, you must file a cert petition shortly after the court of appeals’ decision. In this petition, you are not arguing the substantive issues in your case, you are arguing that the supreme court should allow you to argue the substantive issues in your case. The criteria is limited – the supreme court is looking for cases that present novel issues, resolve statewide legal conflicts, or demonstrate exceptional errors that are likely to recur unless the state’s highest court intervenes.

If that petition is accepted, then a new round of briefing begins, where you move on to arguing the merits of your case.

What Can The Alderman Law Firm Do For Me?

Roughly 9 out of 10 appeals end in an affirmance of the trial court’s decision. Appeals are based solely on the trial court record and, as far as that goes, only so much of it as was properly designated for transmittal to the court of appeals. The decisions are rendered in largest part based on the written briefs of the parties, which are legally technical and complex. It is therefore vital to have your briefs written by an experienced professional.

The attorneys at the Alderman Law Firm have extensive experience in appellate advocacy, and can provide you with professional assistance every step of the way. From reviewing your case materials for errors to expertly drafting your appellate and reply briefs, the attorneys at the Alderman Law firm have the depth of experience necessary to provide you with the best chance of success on appeal.

Are You An Attorney Interested in Writing Services & Appellate Consulting?

The Alderman Law Firm offers appellate services and litigation consulting to other attorneys and law firms on a per-project basis.

What If I Have More Questions?

The above information is offered as a general overview of the civil appeals process. This information is provided as a courtesy, and is not legal advice. If you are considering undertaking a civil appeal, contact the Alderman Law Firm for your free consultation at (608) 620-3529 or (720) 588-3529.