Appeal Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. What is an appeal and why do I need an appellate lawyer?
Generally, after a lower court renders a final judgment and an opinion in a criminal, civil or administrative case, and one or multiple parties are dissatisfied with the final judgment, a party may request a higher court to review the lower court’s decision. Sometimes this request is done before a final judgment as well. In essence, an appeal is a request to a higher court to review the decision of the lower court and reverse the lower court’s decision because either the lower court or counsel erred.
An appellate lawyer is a person who focuses primarily in the filing and defending of appeals. Lawyers, like doctors, and other professionals, have different types of focuses and strengths. Similar to a trial lawyer that focuses on trial work, or on a particular area of law, appellate lawyers focus on appellate law. These types of lawyers focus much of their practice on research and writing and are knowledgeable in the appeals process rather than simply one area of the law.
  1. When and how does the appeals process begin?
The first step in the appellate process is to file a notice of appeal. This must be done within a specified period and is a jurisdictional requirement, meaning it must be done or the appellate court does not have the authority to hear the appeal. See e.g., Fla. R. App. P. 9.110(b), 9.140(a) (in Florida state courts one has 30 days after the final judgment in a civil or criminal case to file a notice of appeal with the lower court); Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(1)(A) and 4(b)(1)(A) (in Florida federal courts one has 30 days for a civil appeal and 14 days for a criminal appeal). Timeliness is incredibly important, and while there may be exceptions when a deadline is missed in a criminal case, this notice must be filed within the designated timeframe.
  1. What are my chances of getting my case reversed on appeal?
It depends on the type of case, the court, and the issues raised. However, getting a case reversed on appeal may be difficult, but it is not impossible. The appellate court is an “error correcting court” so its job is to reverse a decision when an error occurred in the lower court. A considerable number of cases are reversed on appeal every year, and one always has a better chance of prevailing if one has an experienced appellate attorney. One’s likelihood of getting a reversal on appeal depends on the specific facts and law applicable to your case.
  1. How long does the appeal process take after filing the notice of appeal?
An appeal can be a lengthy process because it takes a considerable amount of time to prepare the record on appeal (all the important documents and transcripts from the case that demonstrate the basis for an appeal) and then drafting the briefs, and potentially the court holding an oral argument prior to making a decision. Generally, appellate courts take their time to make sure they reach the right decision, which can result in an appeal taking a year or more from start to finish.
  1. How much money will an appeal cost?
The cost depends on multiple factors such as the length of the record, the number and complexity of the legal issues that can reasonably be raised in the appeal, and whether an oral argument is required. This is always discussed as part of the initial consultation. Depending on the type of case, an hourly rate, a flat rate, or a contingency fee may be an option, depending on which is best for the client. There will likely be a requirement that includes certain costs beyond a fee, such as the initial filing fee and transcript costs.