If you have taken your civil dispute to court, you probably had much at stake, personally and financially. Perhaps you fought for compensation after a personal injury accident, presented your side in a dispute with another business or took on a corporation that caused you some kind of damages. You likely labored over the decision to take the matter to court.
Fighting for your rights takes tremendous sacrifices of time, money and effort, and that is why it is so disappointing when the outcome does not go your way. Fortunately, a court decision is not always your last option. Under certain circumstances, your case may qualify to go before the court of appeals.
Appealing a lower court’s decision
When you take your case to an appellate court, the court is not re-trying the case. Instead, the court will look for errors of the law that may have occurred during your trial. Neither you nor the other side will present new evidence, arguments or testimony during an appeal.
The appeals process is considerably different from a civil trial. Instead of presenting your arguments to a single judge or a jury, a panel of judges will read a brief of your case. An appellate brief is the heart of the appeals case. It is a document your attorney prepares, stating why you believe the outcome of your trial was in error. Some errors may include misinterpretation of the law or the judge allowing evidence he or she should have excluded. Next, an appeal typically follows these steps:
- Your opponent presents a brief with a legal defense of the verdict or ruling in your case.
- The panel of judges reviews both briefs and studies the parts of the trial record pertaining to the appeal.
- The attorneys for both sides may come before the panel to answer the judges’ questions about the case.
- The judges will deliberate the lower court’s decision and decide if it will stand or if legal errors significantly affected the outcome.
If a Florida appellate court decides in your favor, they may overturn the decision of the lower court. After an unsuccessful appeal, you may take your case to the next highest court. Since these courts cannot possibly hear all the appeals they receive, they may not accept your requests for a hearing. The strength of the appellate brief your attorney prepares is often the key to a successful appeal.