Appeals Basics

An appeal is when someone who loses a case asks an Appellate Court, a higher court, to review the decision and change it. The person who asks for the appeal is called the appellant and the person who is on the other side of the appeal is called the respondent.

Except for a default judgment, only an order or Judgment made by a Judge can be appealed. This means that a decision or judgment made by an arbitrator or referee, made in mediation, or agreed to in a Settlement, can’t be appealed to a higher court. Instead, the lower court can vacate (cancel) the default judgment, referee’s decision or settlement. See How to Ask the Court for Something.

The basic steps in an appeals case:

  1. Which Appeals Court: Find out which court decides the appeal.
  2. Notice of Appeal: A Notice of Appeal is the paper you file to start the appeal process. This is a simple form, but the time to file it is very short. If you are late, you lose your right to appeal.
  3. Asking the Court to Stop Enforcement of the Judgment: Filing a Notice of Appeal does not stop or stay the winning side from taking steps to collect or enforce the judgment from the lower court. To put the collection on hold, you may have to ask the court for a stay. You may have to pay an amount of money equal to the judgment amount, called an undertaking, to the court while the appeal is being decided. See How to Ask the Court for Something.
  4. Perfecting the Appeal: An appeal is perfected when you finish all the steps needed to put the case on the Appellate Court’s calendar. This includes giving the court all the papers that explain what happened in the lower court. When the appeal is perfected, the court will assign a court date.
  5. Court Date: On the court date, both sides have a chance to tell the Judges their side of the story. This is called oral argument. But, not every case is allowed to have oral argument. When the argument is over, the case is submitted for a decision.
  6. The Decision: The Appellate Court can reverse, remand, affirm or modify the decision of the lower court, or parts of the decision.
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