Civil appeals lawyers can contribute to better litigation and decision making in a variety of ways at different stages of the appellate process. They help prepare the case for appeal by creating an appellate record and filing briefs with the court of appeals.
People often seek to appeal a trial court’s decision when they believe that errors were made that adversely affected their ability to secure a judgment. There are strict time periods within which you must act to preserve your right to file an appeal.
Preparing the Briefs
Before lawyers come to the appellate court to argue their cases, each side must submit a written argument called a brief. This may be the only thing the judges read before their oral arguments. It is essential that this document prioritizes clarity, efficiency, and readability. This requires mastery of your argument before drafting, including establishing clear containers for information that provide context, relevance and importance; arranging issues logically, addressing threshold issues first and merit issues later; and utilizing the table of contents as a road map to assist the judges in making their decision.
Boring briefs will not persuade the judges, so it is important to use narrative techniques that tell a story rather than simply reciting facts and law. Then, the judges can identify with your client and understand how they might have ruled in a similar case. This will help them make a more persuasive judgment on your behalf. Also, be self-disciplined about completing the draft several days before it is due. This gives you time to edit, cite-check and proofread your work.
Filing the Briefs
The briefs are the most important part of any appeal. The judges of an appellate court review these lengthy documents in order to decide if the lower court made any errors when deciding your case. Appeals are highly complex and have to follow a strict set of rules. A civil appeals attorney can draft persuasive and rule-compliant briefs that help you win your case.
The appellant’s brief should clearly explain why the previous decision is wrong. For example, if the agency or Administrative Judge dismissed your complaint on “procedural” grounds and you are seeking a reversal of that decision, your brief should highlight why those reasons were incorrect.
Each party’s brief must include an appendix of the underlying record. The appendix should contain copies of all documents and testimony cited in the brief. Each brief must also be typed in a monospaced font (such as Courier New), with 1.5″ margins on all sides and 1″ on the top and bottom.
Representing You at the Court of Appeals
If you decide to appeal, your attorney can stand by your side throughout the entire process. An accomplished Virginia civil litigation appeals lawyer could make sure you follow all the rules of appeal and argue your case persuasively to the judges.
On appeal, your attorney’s job is to analyze the record and trial outcomes to determine whether you have a strong chance of success. This requires a lot of legal research and analysis.
Your civil appeals attorney also prepares your case for argument and files it with the court. This is a critical stage in the appellate process, so you want an experienced attorney handling your appeal.
It is important that your civil appeals attorney regularly handles appellate cases because the law is specialized and there is a higher risk of making mistakes if an appellate lawyer is inexperienced with this type of litigation. A skilled attorney could minimize these risks and help you get a better result on your appeal.
A lawyer presenting oral arguments at the appellate level must be skilled in parrying questions from judges and justices who want to know exactly what the legal issues are. Civil appeals attorneys are accustomed to writing lengthy briefs and becoming experts on the laws and cases that they are trying to argue.
If a case is granted oral argument, the court will notify counsel at least 20 days before the date of the hearing. Generally, each attorney will be allotted 30 minutes to present their arguments. If the case is argued by two practitioners, they must jointly decide how to divide up the allotted time.
The judge or justices may ask the parties to clarify their arguments or point out any inconsistencies between the briefs. Oral arguments are not like a trial because there are no witnesses and no evidence is presented. If a party wants to audio-record an oral argument, they must request that permission in writing at least 15 days before the scheduled date of the hearing.