Appeal Overview

What happens if you are unhappy with a decision from a trial court? Or if the other party is unhappy? In these situations, a party may appeal to the appellate courts. Generally, if the case was initially heard in a state trial court, it should be appealed in the state appellate courts. The party appealing a decision is called the “appellant.” The party defending a trial court decision is called the “appellee.” In Michigan, a party typically first seeks review of a trial court decision in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Michigan Supreme Court reviews the decisions of Court of Appeals.

Appellate courts generally will not hear new evidence that was not presented to the trial court. Rather, courts of appeal review what happened in the trial court and determine whether proper procedures were followed and the law was applied correctly.

There are different types of appeal, and the particular appeal process depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. Timing is a crucial issue in all appeals. And there are special rules in family law appeals. Failing to file a timely appeal may result in loss of the appeal. So, it is important that you contact an appellate attorney as soon as you receive the trial court decision you want to appeal or defend for a individualized assessment of your case.

Appellate cases involve legal briefs, which are written arguments. All briefs must comply with specific rules and contain citations to cases and statutory or other legal authority. Briefs must also contain proper citations to the designated record. Typically, after all briefing is completed, a panel of appellate court judges will hear oral argument, which can take place anywhere from months to a year or more after the appeal is filed depending on the case. However, some courts will decide cases based solely on the briefs, without hearing oral argument. The appellate panel will issue a written decision. At the court’s discretion, the opinion may be published in the official reports and become binding authority over future cases.

If a party is dissatisfied with the Court of Appeals decision, an appeal may be initiated in a higher court, such as the Michigan Supreme Court and ultimately (although rarely) the United States Supreme Court. The supreme courts are not required to hear every case and may choose which matters they will decide. These courts typically hear cases where lower courts have made conflicting decisions regarding the same issue, in order to provide uniformity in the law or there is an issue of particular jurisprudential importance.

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