What is Appellate Practice?
In an appeal, a higher court—an appellate or supreme court—reviews the decision of a lower court—generally a trial court or an administrative agency. Lawyers specializing in appellate practice handle the process of appealing a final judgment. This may happen in a civil or criminal case after a trial before a judge or jury, or after dismissal of a case upon disposition of a motion (such as a motion for summary judgment, in which a party has argued that there is no genuine issue of material fact in a case and that he or she is entitled to prevail as a matter of law). An appeal is typically brought before an intermediate court of appeals and, if necessary, to a supreme court.
Both the state and federal courts have avenues of appeal for civil and criminal cases. Most states have an intermediate, or appellate, court that hears cases from lower courts in the same geographic district within the state. Appeals from the appellate courts are brought before a higher level court, typically called a supreme court. Appeals from decisions of federal district courts are brought in the court of appeals that has jurisdiction over the federal districts in one or more states. For example, appeals from federal courts in California proceed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, while appeals from the federal courts in Washington, D.C. proceed to the D.C. Court of Appeals.
A party generally has an appeal as a matter of legal right after a case has proceeded to conclusion at the trial court level and all avenues of review within that court have been exhausted. A criminal defendant who has exhausted appeals at the state trial court level is entitled to seek a review of his or her case through a request to a federal district court called a writ of habeas corpus. In the writ, the defendant claims that he or she is wrongfully imprisoned because he or she has been denied rights, such as due process, under the U.S. Constitution. In civil actions a plaintiff whose case is dismissed by grant of a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment would proceed to an appeal after entry of a judgment.
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