A party in a civil case who loses at trial or otherwise on the merits on the case has a right to appeal the decision of the court or jury in most instances. This may include final judgments in personal injury cases (including decisions granting summary judgment), employment litigation, business disputes and other matters.
In a criminal court case, a defendant has a right to appeal his or her conviction or sentence unless a valid appellate waiver exists.
Experienced litigators will create a record for appeal by objecting to the introduction of certain evidence or other rulings by the court. Trial lawyers also create a record by presenting pretrial motions regarding evidentiary matters called motions in limine, which seek to exclude certain objectionable or unfairly prejudicial testimony or evidence from the jury’s consideration.
In civil and criminal cases, a common issue for appeal is the instructions given to a jury prior to deliberation. Jury instructions advise the jury of the elements of the law for the particular case; define the burden of proof and which party has to meet it; and what must be proven to support a verdict for a plaintiff or prosecution. In each case, the jury instructions guide the jury in their determination of the outcome.
An appeallate court will not act as a second jury or factfinder, re-considering the evidence presented at trial. Rather, appellate courts review whether the law was followed before the trial court or whether there were harmful errors in the process that resulted in a reversible error. Additional appellate issues which are often raised include:
•Whether the trial court’s decisions allowing certain evidence to be heard, or excluded, was harmful error?
• Whether the jury instructions were appropriate?
• Whether summary judgment was properly entered?
• Whether the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to sustain conviction?
• Whether the sentence imposed upon a criminal defendant was reasonable?
There are time limits which apply to most appeals that must be met.As such, determining your rights and intention to pursue an appeal should be done as soon as possible following trial or other decision terminating the case.
This blog is written and published by Laufman & Napolitano, LLC