The Appellate Process – Important Cog in the Legal Mechanism

by | Published on Aug 12, 2014 | News

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Appellate ProcessLaw firms would need to safeguard all the transcripts of proceedings with them, particularly trial transcripts, since these are critical to the success of appeals.

Appeals are what a convicted person looks forward to. The right of defendants to appeal a case that is thought to be finished provides the opportunity for reconsideration of a judgment or order by a higher court. If the person has been wrongly convicted, this offers the only chance they have to set the record straight. Or, it could be the opportunity to secure a lighter sentence.

Appellate Process for Defendants and Plaintiffs

If defendants are unhappy with the judgment meted out them, they can appeal the decision in a higher court. This is what the appellate process in the U.S. is all about. The procedure involves a set of rules that govern the way appellate courts review the judgments made by trial courts where the accused individual’s initial trial has taken place.

Most of the issues that are highlighted on appeal of a criminal trial are concerned with how the district court judge managed a trial or plea, or ruled at sentencing. The issues raised are often technical and usually do not question the defendant’s guilt, but focus on the procedures used in the court process and the application of the relevant law. For instance, questions can be raised on whether or not the judge ought to have allowed certain evidence to be presented, or whether the proper sentencing criteria were used. The appeal is made by the accused with the hope that he or she would receive a lighter sentence, or get his or her innocence proved, though this may not be the end result.

The appeal process is not only for defendants though. Plaintiffs unhappy with lower court verdicts can also look to the appellate courts to review the legal proceedings in the trial court.

The result of an appeal can be ‘affirmed’, where the reviewing court agrees with result of the trial court’s ruling, ‘reversed’, where the appellate court disagrees with the lower court’s ruling and overturns their decision, and ‘remanded’, where the higher court sends the case back to the trial court.

Provisions and Themes of the Appeal Process

The appellate process has gradually evolved from the early periods of American law. Currently, the US Supreme Court grants significant protections to appellants that include right to counsel, right to freedom from government retaliation in case of successful appeals, and, quite importantly, the right to access transcripts used for the trial.

The appellate procedure is focused on major themes such as the kind of judgments that are appealable, the method by which appeals come before the court, what is needed to reverse the decision of the lower court, and the procedure that must be followed by the concerned parties. The appellate court, as part of its review of the appealed decision of the lower court, could correct mistakes made by the trial court, help attain uniformity across the courts, and develop the law concerned with the particular case.

Critical Benefits to Appealers

The access to trial transcripts is very important since the details in it could help construct an appeal, particularly points of objection made by a defense attorney in relation to some physical evidence or testimony. This also helps ensure, according to what the Supreme Court held in the Griffin v. Illinois case in 1956, that the government does not discriminate convicted defendants because they are poor. The trial transcripts therefore provide vital points needed for the success of an appeal.

Another provision by the Supreme Court for defendants on appeal is the right to counsel. Indigent defendants must be provided with effective counsel for assisting in appeals of right, which would help prevent a distinction made between the rich and the poor.

The appellate procedure is now an integral element of the U.S. legal system and it is vital that defendants are advised about the scope of appeals by their attorneys.

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