Appellate practice contemplates the representation of our clients before the Appellate Courts of Florida. Some of our appeals arise from cases previously handled for our clients, although a significant portion of our appellate work is based upon referrals from other law firms, whereby our firm represents the client during the appellate process.
Purpose of an appeal
Many people are confused about what the appellate process is designed to accomplish. Appellate court review is not an avenue to retry a case, complete with witnesses, testimony and evidence. The appellate process is much more limited than the trial court proceedings. It is reserved specifically for correcting legal error, not reweighing evidence or testimony. If the trial court committed reversible legal error, the appellate court can correct that error on appeal or send it back to the trial court to remedy the problem.
Process of an Appeal
Notice of Appeal – The appellate process is commenced by the filing of a Notice of Appeal. This notice must be filed within 30 days from the date of the order being appealed. If you do not file within this time period, you will be barred from obtaining any relief on appeal, even if you are correct that error was committed in the trial court.
Initial Brief – Next, an Initial Brief is filed by the person appealing (the Appellant), usually within 70 days for an appeal taken at the end of a case, or 15 days if the appeal is taken during the middle of a case.
Answer Brief – The person defending the appeal (the Appellee) files an Answer Brief, usually within 20 days of the Initial Brief.
Reply Brief – The Appellant then has the option to file a Reply Brief, usually within 20 days from the Answer Brief, to address issues raised in the Answer Brief.
Oral Argument – Next, if oral argument has been requested and granted, the attorneys will go in front of a 3 judge panel and argue the merits of the appeal. Each side has 20 minutes to state their case and answer any questions posed by the judges. No witness testimony is given or evidence received, the attorneys simply tell the appellate court why the lower court erred, based strictly on what happened in the trial below.
Opinion – Once oral argument is finished, the appellate court will render a decision in the form of a written opinion which will either affirm what the lower court did or reverse the order, or a portion thereof. In most cases, this ends the appellate process. However, in extremely rare circumstances, cases may be taken up to the Florida Supreme Court if they meet specific criteria and the Supreme Court wishes to address the issues presented in the appeal.
If you have any questions regarding the appellate practice, our firm has the only board certified appellate attorney in Clearwater ready to meet with you and discuss your case. Please remember that time is extremely important in the appellate process. If you do not file a Notice of Appeal within the prescribed time, you will be prohibited from receiving any relief on appeal. Therefore, if you have any questions or concerns, contact us today.