Can I appeal the decision in a civil matter?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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The question of whether a case outcome can be appealed depends primarily on the type of case and the court where the case was heard. Criminal cases have a Constitutional appeal by right, whereas some civil and administrative cases can not be appealed. When determining whether your case can be appealed, the first person you should consult is your trial attorney. If you did not have a trial attorney, schedule a consultation with an appellate attorney and, no matter what, meet with the attorney quickly, as you only have between 30 and 60 days to file a motion to appeal.

Criminal Cases

Under Constitutional law, anyone convicted in court for a crime may appeal the crime within 60 days of the verdict. In order to have the best chance at appealing the case, you should consult with a criminal appellate attorney as soon as possible. In order to have a criminal case appealed, you must prove that the court made a harmful or fundamental error in deciding your case. Examples of this type of error include admitting evidence that was gathered using unconstitutional means or giving the jury improper instructions. When these errors happen, the court will overturn the verdict and order a new trial.

Civil Cases

Civil cases are those involving private interests. For example, breaking a contract with someone or trespassing on another person’s land. Most civil cases can be appealed as long as the two people involved in the lawsuit did not agree that the court’s decision was final. Additionally, if the people entered into a binding arbitration, the decision is final and cannot be appealed.

For most state and federal civil cases, you have 30 days to file your motion to appeal. This motion is read and considered by the appellate court. As part of their decision, they will either uphold the lower court’s decision, request an argument, or automatically overturn the ruling and require a retrial. If the court’s decision is upheld, then you must accept the verdict. If they reverse the decision, then the new trial begins immediately. Otherwise, your appellate attorney will appear before the appeals board and have 15 minutes to argue the appeal and answer any questions that the board asks.

Administrative Agency

An administrative agency is a government agency or board that creates and enforces rules. Examples of government agencies include the Internal Revenue Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and Social Security Board. Most administrative agencies permit appeals, but only if there have been policy changes or new information since your first appearance. These appeals require specialized attorneys and filings.

In most instances, cases that are appealed are upheld by the appellate court. If your trial attorney cannot list specific errors that were made during the trail or cannot explain why those errors would have changed the outcome of your case, then it is not worth the time, effort, and money to appeal. If there were obvious errors that changed the outcome of the case, then find a good appellate attorney and file within the statutory time frame for your chance to be heard.

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