What is a Civil Appeal in Wisconsin?

Through a civil appeal, a litigant asks the Court of Appeals to reverse a final judgment or decision made by the Circuit 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 circuit 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.

The most important thing to keep in mind with civil appeals is that you are not complaining that the circuit court made the wrong decision. Rather, you are protesting that it either misinterpreted the law, applied the wrong law, or exercised its discretion in an improper manner. It is imperative that you approach your civil appeal not as if you want “another bite at the apple,” but as if the lower court failed to follow the law.

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