Appeals Attorney Massachusetts
In the United States, there are three levels of courts: district, or trial courts; appellate or circuit courts; and then the Supreme Court. Fewer than 2% of the cases filed are heard by the Supreme Court because of the rigorous selection process. In fact, the circuit courts were born out of the need to lighten the caseload on the higher courts. The U.S. is split up into 13 circuits. Decisions made in appellate courts are final, but in some cases, the parties are still dissatisfied with their decisions have taken their cases to the U.S Supreme Court.
What Is An Appeal?
An appeal is when a party asks for a review of either a civil or criminal case in order to either change the decision or clarify the interpretation of the law. Sometimes defendants or plaintiffs think that the judge or the court made the wrong decision, and want to have the case reopened. The appellant is the person or party who lost their case in court and is bringing the appeal forward. The appellee is the person party against whom the appeal is filed.
Appeals are not the same as retrials or new trials, so there will be no new evidence or additional witnesses and there is no jury. It is an opportunity to review a case to see if you were wrongfully tried.
Who can file an appeal?
Either party in a civil case, whether the plaintiff or the defendant, has the right to file an appeal. But in criminal cases, the right to appeal is only reserved for the defendant in order to protect the plaintiff from having their constitutional rights violated. According to the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice. This is known as double jeopardy.
In order to file your appeal, there must be a strong legal basis for your filing other than the fact that you didn’t like the decision. If a case needs to be reviewed for errors, or if a judge in a different court in your jurisdiction made a different decision and you want there to be a consensus, then you can file a notice of appeal.
The Appeals Process
After a notice of appeal has been filed, the appellant and his or her attorneys begin working hard to develop the documents that will need to be filed within strict time frames.
One of these important documents is called an Opening Brief, which is actually not brief at all, and includes the legal arguments for why the decision should be reversed. Next, the opposing counsel will respond with a Reply Brief that explains their side and includes legal arguments for why the decision should not be appealed. Next, your appeals attorney will file another brief as a rebuttal. In some cases, friends of the court briefs, otherwise known as amicus curiae briefs, are filed when another party wants to offer their expertise or insight on the issue focused on in the case.
The briefs are reviewed by a panel of three judges. And more often than not, the decisions are between them without a hearing. Just as the U.S. Supreme Court picks only certain cases, circuit court judges can request a hearing if they have questions based on the brief or need more information. If there is a law that has been applied inconsistently in the lower courts, for example, then they may want to look into it more. Individual parties can request oral arguments.
“In-person” hearings are very different from trial cases. First, there are no juries. Secondly, there is no presentation of evidence or facts. In fact, this oral argument is for the purpose of asking important questions the judges still had after reading the briefs. Attorneys are only given a few minutes each to state their most important points (not a retelling of what’s already in the briefs), often followed by a lot of rapid-fire questioning from the judges.
Direct vs Interlocutory Appeals
An interlocutory appeal is an appeal that is filed while parts of the case are still being heard in trial court. They are allowed in special circumstances as outlined by the state and federal courts. An example may best illustrate how interlocutory appeals work in practice: let’s say you are one of four defendants in a lawsuit. The court may make a decision for the claims presented by one of the defendants, but the rest may still be fighting in court for years. The judge can allow for the part of the case that has been resolved to be an interlocutory appeal.
A direct appeal, on the contrary, is when a person, who has been convicted of a crime directly challenges their sentence or conviction. In order for a conviction to be final, it must be affirmed on direct appeal. Any defendant who has pleaded guilty or was convicted after a trial proceeding may file for a direct appeal.
Why You Need An Attorney
It is important to hire an appeals attorney with years of experience to represent you and guide you in the appeals process. There are a number of important documents that will be needed, such as:
- The final judgment from your case
- Transcripts from the case
- Documents that were presented to the court
- Anything that was proven presented and is part of the official court record
But more than legal services, your appeals attorney is someone in whom you are trusting one of the critical moments of your life when their diligence, experience, and advocacy is needed most. Brett V. Beaubien, Attorney At Law is an appeals attorney who holds prosecutors to a high standard and fights aggressively for his clients. Brett V. Beaubien knows that your future is on the line, and works hard to provide exemplary counsel to each of his clients.