What Is An Appeal in Law?


There is a legal basis for the appeal which is an alleged material error that is in the trial. It is not merely the fact that the losing party didn’t like the verdict given by the court. Only the defendant in a criminal case has a right to an appeal in most states. In a civil case, any of the parties can appeal to a higher court.

What is an Appeal?

An appeal is a process of getting the cases reviewed by a higher authority, where the parties can request a formal change in an official decision. It functions as a process of clarifying and interpreting the law and as a process for error correction. The common law countries until the 19th century did not incorporate an affirmative right to appeal in their jurisprudence.

Criminal defendants who are convicted in state courts have a safeguard further. The defendants can file a writ of habeas corpus in the federal courts to show that their federal constitutional rights are being violated after using their rights of appeal on the state level. It imposes the check of the federal courts on abuses that occur in the state courts.

An appeal is not a re-trial of the lawsuit. The appeals courts do not consider new witnesses or pieces of evidence. Appeals in either criminal or civil cases are usually based on arguments that there were errors in the trial procedure or there were errors in the interpretation by the judge of the law.

How Do Appeals Work?

The process of appeals allows a losing litigant in a trial court to have the case re-tried again and challenge the decision of the trial court. Both parties can appeal in a civil case, but only the defendant can file an appeal in criminal cases. Either of the parties can appeal in the case for a change in the sentence issued in a guilty verdict. Bankruptcy appeals are handled by a separate appellate committee of bankruptcy judges.

The party that is appealing is known as the appellant or the petitioner. The other party is the respondent or the appellee. The appeal is generally instituted with notice filing of an appeal. The filing marks the commencement of the duration within which the appellant should and must file a brief that is a written argument that contains one side's view and the legal arguments on which they rely and seek a reversal of the decision of the trial court. The appellee is given a specified time to file another brief containing answers. The appellant can file a second brief document answering the appellee's brief.


To begin the appeals process:

• The losing party files a claim stating that the trial court has committed legal errors and challenges the impact on the case's decision.                                                                                                                               

• A written brief is filed by the appealer in an attempt to show that the trial court's decision was the right one and that the claimed error had no effect on the decision                                         

• No additional witness is heard or evidence is provided in the appellate court. The entire process of review is based on the record of the case that is heard in the previous court.                                                 

• The appellate court has the authority to review the facts in the trial, but they cannot overturn the decision on factual grounds unless the findings are proved to be "erroneous."                                                                  

• The written briefs are sufficient for the appellate court to give a decision or require an oral argument before a panel of three judges who preside over each appellate court.                                                                       

• The oral argument period lasts only 15 minutes, and both the parties are given equal time to make their case to the appellate panel.                                         

• The decision by the appellate court is the final judgment for that particular case but can be appealed to the Supreme Court. Appellate courts can also send a case back to the trial court to correct the legal errors for a re-trial.

At the conference, one is designated to write an opinion that goes through several drafts. Judges who disagree with the majority opinion issue a dissenting opinion and those who agree with the result but disagree with the majority's reasoning file a concurring opinion. The appeals court usually issues an unsigned opinion which is called per curiam.

The Right to Appeal:

The right to appeal any judicial decision of the party to the proceedings is the most obvious way of holding the individual judges accountable in some cases by several higher courts. The losing party can have the decision reviewed by other judges. The appeal court corrects and determines the errors by the trial judge and the right of appeal ensures that courts arrive at correct decisions. The decisions of appellate courts are widely available, and fully reasoned, and they do not pull the punches every time.

Examples of the right of appeal are:

  • In criminal cases, there is an appeal against the sentence by the defendant or conviction to the Court of Appeal by the Attorney General against a decision that is considered to be lenient in more serious cases.                                                                                                               
  • In family cases, an appeal can be made against a judge’s decision to grant custody of a child to one parent, to place a child in care, or determine the matrimonial assets that must be divided on divorce;                                                                                                      
  • In civil cases, the appeals can be made against a judge’s determination of a contractual dispute, or a claim for compensation for sustaining personal injuries in an accident, a boundary dispute between neighbours, or negligence by a doctor;                                                                                                       
  • Procedural decisions that are made by the judges in all the parts of the justice system, whether to allow or not allow displaying certain evidence before the court, or whether or not to grant an adjournment is subject to appeal.

To analyze the performance of judges is tempting by looking at the number of appeals against them and drawing the conclusion that judges who are successfully appealed are less than competent. Such a conclusion cannot be drawn properly. The number of appeals against an individual judge’s decision is not indicative of competence.

Author Bio: Within his stakeholding firm, BAJAJ DESAI RESHAMWALA, Adv. Nisarg J. Desai is the principal Property, Civil and Commercial Litigation & Non-Litigation partner. With a demonstrated history of more than 7 years, of providing thorough legal consultation in the industry, Nisarg is a seasoned professional. Nisarg has completed his graduation with Magna cum laude in B.A.LL.B.(Hons.) and LL.M. with a specialization in Business Law from the renowned Faculty of Law, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Nisarg has appeared on behalf of clients in notable courts including, the High Court of Gujarat, tribunals-Commercial Arbitrations-Mediations in Gujarat, the City Civil Court at Ahmedabad, and the District & Sessions Courts in the State of Gujarat. To name a few he has appeared and worked for Tata Unistore Ltd. (TATA CLIQ), Spinny, Union Bank of India, Divaym Hospital under the Divyam Institute of Psychiatry, PhysicsWallah, etc. In addition to being skilled at handling criminal, commercial, and matrimonial cases, Nisarg is also skilled at drafting legal documents such as opinions, petitions, suits, applications, notices, contracts, etc. Nisarg also provides excellent consulting services including compliance, contract negotiations, contract reviews, and commercial arbitration. Nisarg's pre-enrolment internships with prominent legal firms and experienced advocates have sharpened his research abilities and provided him with significant litigation and non-litigation experience. 

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