The Crucial Role of Appellate Attorneys in the Legal System

The roles of trial and appellate attorneys differ greatly from one another. Most everyone has seen a trial attorney in action on popular television shows such as Law and Order, Matlock, Boston Legal, or Franklin and Bash. While real life trials are not nearly so exciting, the role of a trial attorney is a familiar one. But no one has watched a movie or television series about appellate attorneys, nor do many have any personal experience with appeals. This blog explores the crucial role of appellate attorneys in the legal system. 

Trials and appeals are quite dissimilar, requiring the attorneys who handle each to play very different roles. Appellate courts do not hear evidence or retry cases, instead they review the trial court record to determine if any errors that necessitate reversal were made (American Bar Association). It is the job of the appellate attorney to identify the possible errors and persuade the appellate court that one or more of those errors caused harm to their client and the decision should therefore be overturned. This not only helps to ensure fairness and consistency in the choice and application of the law, but protects our constitutional rights and civil liberties, corrects injustices, and promotes accountability of the trial court judges for the decisions that they make. The appellate courts provide a system of checks and balances in the legal arena and without appellate attorneys they would not exist, leaving the local courts and legal authorities to simply do as they please without any real oversight (barmax). 

Appellate lawyers are experts in appellate procedure. They carefully review the trial court record including transcripts, exhibits, motions, and court orders to identify reversible error, from which precise issue statements, that are easy to understood, can be thoughtfully developed. The value of properly framing the issues for appeal cannot be underestimated (Florida Bar Association). Once the issues are stated correctly, identifying the rule or law that applies and to what facts it does so, the research and analysis can begin. A large part of an appellate attorneys job is conducting legal research and analysis. Not only does a party’s brief need to tell the appellate court that the trial court was either right or wrong, but it needs to show specifically how and why it’s decision was the correct or incorrect one. This means providing the appellate court with the applicable rules and statutes as well as previously decided cases that interpret and explain the law in a way that best advocates for the client. 

A statement of the issues, relevant facts, and rule or law that was applied by the trial court as well as the rule or law that should have been applied and how it should have been are included in a brief written by the appellate attorney and submitted to the court. The brief walks the appellate court through the facts and the argument, referring to the transcript, evidence, rules, statutes, and case law that support the attorneys theory of the case. Appellate attorneys are well versed in the law and the art of persuasion and the arguments made in their brief use clear and compelling language (geniusupdates) in an effort to convince the appellate court that the trial court’s decision should be reversed, or overturned. The appellate process can take approximately six to nine months to complete as the party or court employee required to complete each step generally has a deadline of 30 to 45 days, depending on the step being completed. For example, to initiate an appeal, a party must file a notice of appeal with both the trial and appellate court within 30 days of the date the decision being appealed was entered (Ind. App. R. 9(A)(1)). The court reporter must then submit the transcript for any hearing or trial requested within 45 days of the notice of appeal being filed (Ind. App. R. 11(B)). 

When an appellate attorney represents a client in front of an appellate court they are not just attempting to get that client a better outcome, but are helping shape the framework of the law by creating precedent, effecting needed changes in the law, and building a legal system that is fair, just, and consistent for everyone. The law is a living and breathing entity which should grow and change along with society, but without appellate attorneys to advocate for consistency, protection, and equity we might still be living under the archaic law of decades or even centuries past. 

This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. It is for general educational purposes. The blog is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice. This is an advertisement.


Quick Contact

Need to talk now? Fill out the quick form below and we will contact you directly.

What Our Clients Say About Us

Contact Us