Florida Appeals Attorney - How Does the Civil Appeals Process Work?

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Sometimes a civil lawsuit doesn’t end with a jury’s verdict or a judge’s ruling. If there was a legal or prejudicial error that affected the outcome of a case, either party may be entitled to file an appeal. However, the civil appeals process is not meant to be a second chance to reargue the facts of a case. An appeal is the procedural mechanism used to ask the appellate court to review the lower court’s decision based on an error in the way the law was applied. Our Florida Appeals Attorney at Waugh PLLC has significant experience handling a wide range of appeals in the Florida and federal courts — and works diligently to achieve the best possible results for clients.

What is an Appeal?

An appeal is the legal process in which decisions made by a trial court are reviewed by the appellate court. It is a right guaranteed by both the Florida Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. Nevertheless, it’s important to understand that there are certain criteria that must be met to file an appeal. While the reasons for filing an appeal can vary, there must have been either a procedural or legal error made at the trial court level. In addition, the error must have been preserved on the record by raising an objection.

On appeal, the higher court can affirm the lower court’s ruling — or it can reverse it in the event the decision was found to be in error. The appellate court might also reverse and remand the entire case to the lower court. Significantly, both final and non final orders from the lower court may be appealable. Cases brought to the District Courts of Appeal are typically reviewed by a panel of three judges.

How is an Appeal Filed?

The civil appeals process is very different from trial proceedings, which involve depositions, conducting discovery, motion practice, and attending hearings. Once an appeal is filed, the trial has concluded — and the record of the case has been created. An appellate lawyer will thoroughly review the trial court record and transcript for the proceeding. They will then formulate their arguments and draft a brief that outlines why the trial court’s decision was wrong.

To start an appeal, a Notice of Appeal must be filed with the clerk in the court where the case was heard. The party filing the appeal is called the “appellant.” The opposing party who is seeking to uphold the lower court’s judgment is referred to as the “appellee.”

Importantly, there is a stringent 30-day deadline to file, from the rendition of the order requested to be reviewed. A party waives their right to an appeal if it is not filed within the specified time limit. The notice is filed by a Florida Appeals Attorney electronically using Florida’s e-portal system, but a non-lawyer may file the appeal in person with the court clerk. The appeal must be accompanied by the appropriate filing fee.

What Goes into an Appellate Brief?

There are specific rules regarding the briefs that must be filed. The party appealing the lower court’s decision must set forth their legal argument, supported by the facts in the record and the applicable laws. In turn, the appellee will argue why the lower court’s decision should not be reversed. Critically, there are strict requirements regarding the format of the briefs and what they must contain.

The appellant’s brief, also referred to as the “Initial Brief,” must include the following:

  • Table of contents
  • Table of citations, including case law and legal authority
  • A statement of the case
  • A summary of the argument
  • The full argument of each issue you will be raising
  • A conclusion indicating the relief requested
  • A certificate of service that the brief was served on all parties
  • A certificate of compliance that your brief meets the font and size standard of the court

The Initial Brief filed by the appellant and the Answer Brief filed by the appellee must not be more than 50 pages. If the appellant chooses to file a Reply Brief following the submission of the Answer, it cannot exceed 15 pages.

What is the Oral Argument?

An oral argument during the civil appeals process is similar in some ways to a hearing at the lower court. It gives both sides the opportunity to talk about the issue on appeal with the appellate judges and answer questions the judges might have about the case. Notably, any issues raised at oral argument must be contained in the appellate brief — parties are not permitted to discuss matters outside the briefs submitted. While oral argument must be requested within 10 days after the last brief must be served, it is not always granted.

Contact an Experienced Florida Appeals Attorney

The civil appeals process is distinct from civil litigation. Not only does it have its own set of rules, but it requires specific skill and knowledge. Our Florida Appeals Attorney at Waugh PLLC has significant experience handling a wide range of appeals in the Florida and federal courts — and works diligently to achieve the best possible results for clients. We welcome you to contact us at info@waughgrant.com or call (321) 800-6008 to learn how we can assist you with your appeal.

Categories: Appeals