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Questions about Appellate Courts

What is an appellate court?

An appellate court is referred to as an appeals court or a court of appeals. It is a court of law which is responsible for considering an appeal on the verdict after the trial has taken place in the trial court or other lower tribunal. In most cases, the appeals court will review the evidence and testimony which has already been presented to the trial court to rule out any errors of law and pass suitable judgment. Normally no new evidence can be presented to the appeals court without a separate motion for doing so. In most jurisdictions, the court system is categorized into at least three levels: the trial court, at least one intermediate appellate court and a supreme court which is the jurisdiction’s highest authority of appellate courts. Appellate court rules vary from state to state.

Listed below are a few questions answered by the Experts on appellate court issues.

What information does an appellate court review to rule on an appeal? What does “on the face of the record” signify in an appellate court in Texas?

The appellate court reviews the briefs presented by the lawyers and the documentary evidence submitted at the time of trial. “On the face of the record” involves the transcripts, court docket entries and all pleadings with attachments that were filed with the court. It also includes the content of documentation exhibits which are in support of a filed motion.

Does an appellate court have the power to overrule a judge’s decision because of errors in the judgment? What can they do and what is the time period in which they can do so?

The main function of an appellate court is to look into any factual or legal errors in the judgment. It reviews the judge’s decision and has the power to overrule as well as take remedial action. Depending on the type of error, the corrective or remedial action could constitute a new trial, a new trial with a different judge or the appellate court making a final decision. In most cases, the time taken by the appellate court could be several months to a year.

Are transcripts considered evidence and does tampered evidence apply in appellate cases?

Objects and documents provided through or by witnesses in trials and depositions are normally categorized as evidence. Transcripts are factual records of the events that have transpired at court compiled by the court reporters. They are not treated as evidence.

Evidence is necessary until a case has reached its conclusion. A conclusion is usually arrived at after a trial, if the time limit to file an appeal has passed or if the appellate court has arrived at a decision. Evidence tampered with before a conclusion is reached would require a “tort” action or complaint.

What is the time frame taken for an appeal to be heard once the appellate court has waived the oral arguments and has taken the appeal into consideration?

Usually in cases of where there are no oral arguments, the court would issue a written decision. The basis of this decision would be records compiled from the lower courts and the legal briefs submitted in this regard. The time frame based on individual courts to announce the verdict would take anywhere between six months to a year in most cases. It is also dependant on the backlog that exists in the particular court. You could contact the office of the clerk to check the approximate time it takes for a written opinion to be issued.

My friend lost her appeal at the appellate court. The brief presented at the trial contained confidential information. How can this information be protected or made unavailable at the appellate court?

The main way or method to do this would be to file a motion to seal the records. She would also need to list the reasons why the records remaining open would be detrimental to her.

Experiencing a trial—civil or criminal—is complicated and cumbersome for anyone. You hope to complete proceedings correctly in the first instance, but it may not happen. Sometimes a trial at the lower courts may have procedural legal errors. In this case, the appellate court is the court one should approach to appeal a decision made by the lower courts. Hence these courts provide an opportunity to highlight any errors made previously and also help in seeking justice. If you are considering appealing a court verdict, consulting Experts would be helpful in understanding your situation better and seeking the right options.
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