Understanding What An Appellate Attorney Does

Most people generally understand the importance of hiring an appellate attorney to handle legal matters. This is especially true with respect to appellate law, a unique area that most attorneys don’t practice. But what exactly does an appellate attorney do? If you have a pending California Court of Appeal matter, understanding the role your attorney plays is critical. Gusdorff Law works with appellants in state Court of Appeal cases. Here we explain just a few of the ways we serve our clients.

Correcting (or defending) trial court decisions

Depending on who the appellate attorney represents, the lawyer’s objective is either to correct or defend trial court decisions. If representing the appellant – the party who appeals – the lawyer will look for errors in law or procedure at trial. When representing the respondent – the party who responds to the appeal – the lawyer generally tries to refute alleged errors.

Changing the case law

Case law is set by courts, as opposed to statutory law that is set by legislatures. The entire summation of court decisions is what constitutes case law. The appellant’s lawyer or respondent’s lawyer may simply want the correct law applied to the trial court’s decision. In some cases, however, the goal is to effectively change the case law.

How? One way is to ask the Court of Appeal to overturn a lower court decision. If the Court of Appeal does so, and publishes its opinion, its decision Doing so will affect future trial court decisions, which in effect changes the case law. Without an appeal, trial courts may continue applying the law erroneously. Another way to change case law is to ask the Court of Appeal to change its interpretation of statutory law. In doing this, the Court may set a new precedent. Setting a new precedent may also be done by overturning a lower court’s decision.

Review and analysis

An appellate attorney must review the trial record, including  on appeal, motions, evidence, and exhibits from the trial court. Even if the attorney represents the respondent, this review is critical. Bear in mind, the Court of Appeal justicesjudges were not present at the trial, so their sole view of the evidence and court rulings comes from the appellate record, and the attorneys’ discussions thereof. The record on appeal is a crucial tool the court uses to render its decision. That record allows the court to look in and get a better idea of what occurred at trial. But the The appellate attorney’s job is to explain what happened at trial and why it matters if the attorney conducts . This cannot be done without a thorough review and analysis of the record.

Legal research for an appellate attorney

Here again is a major role your appellate attorney will play. Your lawyer will review previous Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court decisions and, often, opinions of the California Supreme Court. Part of the artskill of legal research is knowing what to look for and where to find it. If your attorney handles specific types of appeals, as we do, that skill is even more refined. Court of Appeal decisions touch on every imaginable area of law. We know where to begin the research and what we need to locate to support our clients’ cases.

Legal writing

Along with the record on appeal, the appellate briefs areis an essential to element of any successful appeal. The goal is simple: persuade the Court of Appeal to side with your view of the trial court’s decision. There are rules for how to structure the brief and cite cases. There are also Rules of Court that govern the contents of these briefs and certain procedural matters. Hiring a seasoned appellate litigator is important to writing a convincing brief that follows the rules.

Oral argument

Not all appeals are argued in person before the Court of Appeal. However, there are a variety of reasons you may wish to have an oral argument. An argument can potentially make or break an appeal, particularly when novel issues are before the court. As with everything else in appellate law, there are right and wrong ways to conduct the oral argument. Our team can advise as to whether an argument is needed and conduct it on your behalf.

Advocate and counselor

Finally, an appellate attorney serves as the client’s advocate and counselor. When you retain our firm, we take the time to understand the issues involved and why they matter to you. Our firm also walks you through the appeals process, answers your questions, and provides encouragement. We know the importance of your appeal and we bring our considerable experience to bear in every case.

This is just a snapshot of what an appellate attorney does. To find out more, or to begin working on your appeal, contact Gusdorff Law. We’re ready to schedule your confidential consultation today.