What happens if you or your adversary are unhappy with a verdict or ruling (including certain interim Court orders) from a trial court? Whether the decision was made by a judge or a jury, any party can appeal the case to a higher tribunal. Generally, if the case was initially heard in state court, it should be appealed to the state appellate court (or appellate term – for state District and Civil Courts). There are four (4) Appellate Divisions in New York and the highest Court in the State is the New York Court of Appeals. The federal circuit courts of appeals hear cases appealed from the U.S. District Courts. Additionally, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit can hear appeals. Appellate courts generally do not afford you a “new” trial and will not hear new evidence that wasn’t presented to the trial court. Rather, courts of appeal review what transpired in the trial (lower) court and determine whether proper procedures were followed and the law was applied correctly. Appellate courts generally defer to the trial (lower) court or jury findings regarding factual issues, and only examine how the law was applied during the trial.
To initiate an appeal, the “appellant” – the party appealing – must file a notice of appeal in the trial court, and designate an appellate record consisting of materials from the trial court which the appellant wishes to present to the appellate court. The deadline to file a notice of appeal in New York is 30 days from the filing of a Notice of Entry of a trial court Order or Judgment.
Appellate cases generally involve three legal briefs (an initial brief by the Appellant, a Respondents’ opposition brief and a reply brief from the Appellant), all of which must contain citations to cases and statutory or other legal authorities. Briefs must also contain proper citations to the designated appellate record. The initial Appellant’s brief must explain the factual and procedural history of the case and then state how the trial court erred and why the appellate court should reverse the ruling. The “appellee” – sometimes called the “respondent” – then files a responsive brief with the appellate court. Like the opening brief, this response should explain the factual and procedural history, followed by argument that the trial court was correct and the ruling should not be reversed. Finally, the appellant then has an opportunity to file a reply brief. In the reply, the appellant can argue against the claims made in the appellee’s responsive brief, but is not permitted to introduce any new legal arguments. The reply must only address statements made in the responsive brief and factual errors in the Respondent’s brief. Sometimes, both parties are unhappy about certain parts of the lower court order or finding. In that event, a Respondents can also file a cross-appeal on certain issues decided in the lower court in the same manner.
Typically, after the briefs are filed, a panel of appellate court judges will hear oral argument, which can take place anywhere from a few months to a year or more after the appeal is filed; depending on the court. However, some courts will decide cases based solely on the briefs, without hearing oral argument. The appellate panel will issue a written opinion stating their decision and the reasoning behind it. The timing of this written opinion varies considerably among different courts, but is generally a period of several months.
New York City Appellate Law Attorneys
Our team is well-versed in appellate practice and has handled many appeals. If you are unhappy with a decision or ruling or are embroiled in a current appeal and need direction, contact our office for a consultation.