How An Appeals Court Works

An appeals court is also known as an appellate court, court of appeals, or court of second instance. It refers to a court of law that has the authority to hear an appeal from a trial court or other lower courts. An appeal is a request by an involved party to review a decision made by a court. The person filing an appeal is an appellant. An appeals court can determine if the action on an appeal is affirmed, reversed, modified, or remanded.

Court systems often have three levels. A trial court that initially takes a case to review evidence and testimonies, an intermediate court that can hear appeals, and a supreme court that reviews decisions made by the intermediate court. Appeals courts will not consider cases raised for the first time. It aims to review cases where a lower court, such as a trial court, has already heard and decided.

Example Of An Appeals Court

Someone who is found guilty after a criminal case trial can initiate an appeal process. An appellant must file a notice of appeal to the courts within specified deadlines, usually 30 or 60 days, depending on the type of case. The County of Orange Superior Court of California's laws for Criminal Appeals indicates the following two acceptable reasons for filing an appeal:

  • Lack of evidence in your trial to justify the verdict or judgment.
  • Mistakes of law during or before the trial that hurt your case (e.g., not read Miranda Rights).

An appeals court will not retry the case or decide the facts of a case. Instead, they will review records of the initial trial and decide if there is substantial evidence to support the grounds for appeal. In cases where judges made mistakes of law, the appeals court will hold a hearing to listen to all parties involved.

Significance Of An Appeals Court

It is important to have a court review any potential mistakes from a lower court to regulate accountability and accuracy. Under the fourteenth amendment, the Constitution gives individuals the right to appeal since it protects improper enforcement of the law. The Supreme Court of The United States receives over 7,000 cases to review annually. Of these requests, they hear around 100 to 150 appeals.

An appellate can appeal if trial court proceedings were unfair or improper laws were applied for decisions. Examples of grounds for appeal include a judge:

  • Abusing their discretion.
  • Denying a key witness to testify.
  • Making decisions not supported by the evidence in a case.

Types Of Appeals Courts

There are different types of appeals courts for different jurisdictions and types of cases. Each appeals court will also have different authorities for reviewing previous decisions. In the United States, there are civilian, military, civil, and supreme courts. Generally, each state has its own civilian and civil appeals courts, such as:

  • Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
  • California Appellate Court
  • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
  • Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals

The military appeals courts will vary by type of branch. For example:

  • Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals
  • Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals
  • United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals
  • Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals

History Of An Appeals Court

The United States created its first system of federal appeals courts in 1789. In 1889, Congress permitted appeals in capital cases. Two years later, the United States created nine new courts dedicated to appeals through the Judiciary Act of 1891. This act is also known as the Evarts Act and the Circuit Courts of Appeals Act.

The appeals process for certain classes of federal court cases in the United States used to go to the Supreme Court automatically. However, the right of automatic appeal for most decisions by a lower court ended with the Judiciary Act of 1925. This act reorganized the federal court system to reduce the workload of the Supreme Court.

Appeals Court vs. Trial Courts

A trial court is usually a lower court than the appeals court and will be the first court to hear a case. Trial courts review evidence, hear witness testimonies, and can have a jury. Appeals courts do not hear new evidence, listen to testimonies, or retry cases. The appeals court will review a trial court's procedures to confirm the court's decisions and proceedings were fair, and they applied proper laws.