Federal Appellate Lawyer
After a federal conviction, be it criminal or civil, you are likely wondering what your next steps should be. Do you just accept the judgment and take your punishment? Should you fight the decision and file an appeal? By speaking with a federal appellate lawyer, you can learn what options you have available and the likelihood of success of each of those options.
The appellate attorneys at Eddington & Worley have built a sterling reputation for providing exceptional legal defense for all types of federal cases. We fight to protect the rights of the accused, even after they have been convicted in a court of law. We know how much is on the line with your appeal and will work with you to ensure the best possible outcome. Call our federal appeals firm today at (281)595-1519 to speak with one of our expert attorneys today.
What is an Appeal?
An appeal is the most suitable way for a party to challenge a verdict by a jury or a decision by a lower court judge. An appeal can be made in both civil and criminal cases.
A good criminal appeal example is when a defendant in a criminal trial loses their pre-trial motion such as the motion to proceed with a trial, motion to suppress evidence, or motion to exclude evidence. A criminal appeal can also occur when a defendant is convicted at trial before a jury. The defendant can appeal the conviction, judgment, or even the sentence. Mistakes can be made during the trial, and the appeals process ensures that trial court juries and judges follow the law.
An example of a civil appeal would be when a party wants the decision by a judge on evidence or a matter of law overturned. A trial court may permit evidence that shouldn’t have been included. In such a case, a person can choose to appeal to a panel of appellate judges for the decision to be reviewed.
What is an Appellate Lawyer?
Appellate attorneys take cases from the lower trial courts, such as civil courts or criminal courts, and challenge or appeal such cases in higher courts such as the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals. Appeals can take place in both federal and state courts.
State Courts are typically divided up into trial courts, Courts of Appeal, which are usually referred to as District Courts of Appeal, and a State Supreme Court. On the other hand, Federal Courts are divided up into a District Court that hears matters relating to the trial court, a United States Circuit Court of Appeal, and the United States Supreme Court.
Appellate lawyers typically take cases from the trial courts that hear both criminal and civil cases and appeal them to higher courts to have the decisions of lower court judges reversed, to challenge the verdict delivered by a jury, to overturn an error of law made before a trial jury or trial judge, and to review a decision by a trial court judge on a motion to suppress in case of criminal cases or a motion in limine in case of a civil case.
If the losing party appeals their case to a higher court, that party is referred to as the Appellant or Petitioner. If the winning party answers or responds to an appeal before a higher court, that party is referred to as the Respondent or Appellee. In either case, it is the responsibility of the appellate attorney to file a brief to argue the merits of the law as it applies to the underlying facts presented before the trial court jury or trial court judge.
What Does an Appellate Lawyer Do?
Appellate lawyers are responsible for filing briefs before the appellate courts to seek a review of errors that take place in a trial court. Briefs are typically divided up into factual matters that are presented in lower courts, standards of review that must be used by the appellate courts to review orders or decisions of lower courts, and arguments of law analyzing why decisions of lower courts are errors of law.
Appellate attorneys typically don’t file issues on appeal that are outside the record on appeal. Simply put, appellate attorneys are generally limited to the transcript of the proceedings that happened in the lower courts. It is only the record on appeal that can be used for filing an appeal.
Appellate attorneys are not allowed to introduce new evidence on appeal or before the appellate courts. Appellate lawyers must therefore only use evidence, facts, and matters of law that were presented to the trial jury or judge to file or brief and appeal before the appellate courts.
Will My Trial Attorney Need to Object Before I Appeal?
A trial court attorney must object either prior to or during the trial to preserve an issue for appeal in most cases. Objections are required in both civil and criminal cases. Here’s why objections are required to appeal a lower court decision or order to the Court of Appeal: Objections are needed by Appellate Court judges to give the trial court an opportunity to decide as a matter of law on the matter that’s presented.
For instance, a trial court attorney might object when opposing counsel asks witnesses leading questions. If those leading questions end up influencing the trial’s result, an objection is made, and the trial court judge’s decision to either deny or admit the evidence can be appealed to a higher court panel of judges to review the trial court judge’s decision.
Objections might be necessary for an issue to be preserved for appellate review, but exceptions to the rule exist. For instance, an appellate court can review some decisions of lower court juries or judges in case of a plain error.
A plain error issue doesn’t require making a contemporaneous objection in the trial court. A plain error issue can be so unfair or extreme that it allows the appellate court to review the issue even without objection.
Regardless, other than a plain error issue, the best way for you to secure an appellate review and preserve an issue for either a criminal or civil appeal in most cases is to ensure that a proper objection is made at the time of the issue that’s being disputed.
Why Do I Need to Hire an Appellate Attorney?
While there are many factors to consider when weighing whether or not to hire a federal appellate lawyer, there are three main reasons why it is usually correct to do so.
Appellate Attorneys Help Add a Fresh Perspective
The trial lawyer is obviously knowledgeable of the record cold because he/she actually experienced it. While that has its advantages, it has its disadvantages too since no matter how good of a lawyer he/she is, that degree of immersion tends to create blind spots.
A good trial lawyer develops a core theory and communicates it to the court. However, by so doing, he/she must choose some avenues over others. Obviously, that’s necessary in each case, but it might also close off other perspectives, psychologically speaking.
The most difficult questions for trial attorneys often arise from issues that you can easily tell they hardly considered. They had tunnel-vision when it came to the approaches they took to their cases.
An appellate lawyer will take the case with a fresh look at the record, and in that regard, they are actually in a similar position to the appellate judges. The fresh perspective allows your team to better correct its course, if needed, as well as developing a core theory on appeal based on the actual record as opposed to the anticipated record, which is how trial-level theories are developed.
Appellate attorneys can view the whole case more completely and objectively than the attorney that actually lived it.
Appellate Attorneys Understand What Matters to Appellate Judges
Trial and appellate judges both seek to ensure that justice is served and applying the law correctly and consistently. However, they confront issues before them from different perspectives. The trial court is laser focused on the facts surrounding the case at hand and has participated and observed in its development, depending on the stage of the case.
In contrast, an appellate court views the case for the first time when the judges start reading the bench memos or briefs. The parties have 1 or 2 briefs, then an argument to make an impression. That’s it. An appeals attorney has the skills and experience needed to best develop such opportunities to take advantage of the limited time and space.
However, just as importantly, the appeals lawyer understands how important it is for appellate judges to implement the proper standard of review in the proper way, develop the law in the appellate circuit or district effectively, and not create a precedent that is likely to affect cases at the trial level in a negative way.
To further elaborate on the third point, appellate judges must think carefully, for instance, about whether the decisions they make are likely to open up the floodgates for frivolous cases, confuse an issue of law in such as way that prevents parties from resolving disputes without litigation, or unnecessarily creating fact-intensive issues likely to drain the resources of the courts or even litigants in the future.
Appellate Attorneys Know How to Emphasize the Record and Build the Case on Appeal
Attorneys with appellate experience will most effectively identify any errors made by the trial court and frame them for the appellate courts. Appellate attorneys, at the same time, don’t have a stake in the arguments made in the lower courts and can thus take a more dispassionate view about the ones to discard as well as those critical to presenting a strong appeal. Appellate experience also helps such attorneys to effectively determine which arguments are likely to help more than hurt.
Every argument or issue that’s added to your briefing carries a significant cost. If you add weak arguments, you dilute your strong arguments and draw the attention of the court away from them.
Crafting briefs effectively and preparing for oral arguments at the appellate level are unique skills that don’t overlap completely with a trial lawyer’s skills. Incorporating a lawyer with appellate experience into your legal team can, therefore, add significant value.
What Do I Need to Consider Before I Decide Whether or Not to Appeal?
The initial thought once the final judgment has been made in a trial is to expect the side that “wins” to celebrate and the side that “loses” to appeal the decision. However, the calculus involved in the decision regarding whether to appeal or not is usually more complex than this.
Not all losses are worth appealing for many parties, and sometimes the party that “wins” might feel that more should have been awarded to them. To add to the considerations, appeals are usually neither free nor simple and hiring an experienced appellate lawyer, which is your best chance of winning on appeal, can actually end up costing more than the original trial.
Therefore, when considering filing an appeal, you should always perform a thorough and objective cost-benefit analysis. It might not be easy to do so, because assessing your own cases automatically puts you in a position of partiality.
Even the lawyer who represented you at trial will likely not be impartial when it comes to filing an appeal. Regardless of whether it is because they feel they could manage your case better if given another chance, or because they are convinced that the district court simply got it all wrong, they will have an inherent bias. Your best course of action is seeking the advice of a genuinely impartial lawyer, preferably one with appeals experience and who wasn’t involved with your case during the original trial.
Our appellate attorneys will review your case, look at the examples from the original trial attorney, and evaluate the relevant factors such as the time, cost involved, and the possible outcome of the appeal. They will then provide an expert’s take on whether the decision by the trial court can realistically be appealed.
How Much Does Hiring an Appellate Attorney Cost?
A good appellate lawyer charges between $300 and $500 for a consultation, on average. The advice provided will be impartial and the time will be unlimited. If the appeals attorney encourages you to appeal, ask them to provide specific reasons to justify their stand. You can also request a fee table during the meeting, which includes the amount of local filing fees.
What Are the Costs and Benefits of an Appeal?
For the party that loses a case outright at the trial level, the appeal offers obvious benefits: the appellate courts have the authority to overturn the trial’s verdict. It is important not to think of an appeal as a “second chance”.
Appellate courts usually give great deference to the trial court’s findings, especially with regards to the facts of the case. The facts are never subject to appeal since they have been established by the trial court through the presentation of evidence and the calling of witnesses, neither of which happens at the appeals level.
The appellate courts instead review the verdict of the trial court for errors of law as well as other egregious mistakes. For potential appellants, it means that even though a certain key witness on the other side appeared untrustworthy or shifty, the appeals court won’t see the witness, but only read the transcript of their testimony as captured in the trial record. Appellants can therefore not exploit such weaknesses on the other side a second time, and must instead focus on why the law was applied incorrectly to the facts of the case by the trial court.
The temptation to appeal might exist even for the party that “won” to receive a higher amount. Most states allow for lawyers’ fees to be awarded, which means that parties that weren’t given fees on top of the damages received may wish to challenge to see whether the appeals court will actually award the lawyers’ fees.
What Are Some of the Potential Pitfalls of an Appeal?
However, the temptation to appeal can be a major downfall – by appealing some aspects of the decision of the trial court that they didn’t win, the appellant opens the door for the appellee to revisit the rest of the parts of the decision. This may lead to serious regret since it is possible for the appellee to have the verdict overturned during the appeal. Due to this risk, the appellant needs to take a long look at what was held by the trial court and whether they would like that result to be thrown open to challenge.
Furthermore, if the appeal is found to be either unfounded or frivolous, the appellant might find themselves on the hook for paying the other side’s costs in responding to the appeal. Finally, as you probably did for the original lawsuit look at the other side’s assets – if you would like to get more out of them and don’t have any assets, then any victory on appeal will probably be a hollow one, which leaves you holding the bag and simply owing your lawyer for the costs of the appeal, without having the ability to recover anything for your efforts.
Courts We Serve
Eddington & Worley proudly represent clients across the country, in every circuit court of appeals. Each circuit court is made up of a group of states or US territories, hearing all cases that reach their level. Below is a list of the courts our federal appeals lawyers handle cases in:
- First Circuit Court of Appeals
- Second Circuit Court of Appeals
- Third Circuit Court of Appeals
- Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
- Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
Contact Eddington & Worley Today for a Free Case Review!
The benefits and costs of appealing a trial court decision can be tremendous, but one of the greatest keys is taking the surprise out of it by preparing and obtaining a realistic and impartial assessment of your chances. Talking to an experienced federal appellate lawyer about your case gives you much deeper insight into the legal system than you would otherwise have.
If you have been convicted of a crime, criminal or civil, call Eddington & Worley today at (281)595-1519 for a free consultation. Our expert appeals attorneys will answer questions you may have and can provide an honest, thoughtful outside perspective on your situation. We weren’t involved in your initial case, so we have no reason to sugarcoat anything, which will give you confidence that our advice will be sincere and based on the facts. Don’t waste another minute, contact our office today and get an experienced federal appellate attorney on your side.