The Appellate Process Explained

A case does not end with the return of a jury verdict. Any party who disagrees with the jury’s result may seek to change it or to obtain a new trial by having the case reviewed by a higher court. This is called an “appeal”. Appellate Practice involves the representation of parties in an appeal, including those who request the review and those who seek to affirm the original decision.

To start an appeal, your attorney first files a Notice of Appeal. It is important that such notice be given within the relevant, often short, time limits set by law or your appellate rights may be lost. If you are contemplating an appeal, it is important to consult an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that you do not miss the deadline.

Appellate Steps

After filing the notice of appeal, the appealing party (the “appellant”) must next prepare the record, including the trial transcript, and prepare any other required procedural forms. Once the record is fully prepared, your attorney will prepare a written brief concerning the facts and law of your case and submit it to the appellate court. In civil cases, the appealing party must pay a filing fee in order to enter the appeal on the appellate court docket.

When the case is docketed or accepted by the court, the next crucial stage of the appeal is the writing of the appellate brief. This document contains a discussion of the facts involved in the case, an analysis of the legal issues raised and an argument in support of the position taken by the party who submits the brief. The appellant files the first brief, the party opposing the appeal (the “appellee”) files a responding brief and then the appellant, if necessary, can file a short reply. Once all of the briefs have been filed, the appellate court may schedule a court date to hear oral argument as to why the court should rule in that party’s favor.

In Massachusetts, there are two state appellate courts: the Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). All cases are sent first to the Appeals Court, except specific cases such as first-degree murder conviction, which proceed directly to the Supreme Judicial Court for review. Cases raising new or unusual legal issues may also be transferred for an initial hearing in the Supreme Judicial Court at the request of the parties or by the Supreme Judicial Court’s own order. Once the Appeals Court issues a decision, a party that disagrees with the result can petition the SJC to review the decision. While the Supreme Judicial Court ordinarily denies such requests, Attorney Crouch has successfully petitioner for further appellate review or rehearing in several cases.

If you are not successful at the state appellate level, there may be additional avenues of relief that may be pursued on your behalf.

Please contact Attorney Crouch at (617) 441-5111 or email him at acrouch[at]andrewcrouch.com to set up a free, initial consultation. To request further information please contact us.