Why is it important to have your case reviewed by the appellate court?

May 2, 2017

Most obviously because it may result in a different outcome than what was ordered by the trial court. Trial judges and attorneys are not infallible and do make mistakes that can completely change or affect the outcome of your case. An appellate court reviews the trial court’s decision and if the appellate court finds an error that contributed to the trial court's decision, the appeals court will reverse that decision.   But an often unrecognized benefit of appealing your case is that, regardless of the outcome, your case will serve to clarify the law and guide the trial court in other cases. The law is often vague or broad so it can encompass a lot of situations. Because of that, the courts need to interpret what the intent of the law is and how it should be applied to someone's specific situation/case. In doing so they will look to other cases that were examined by higher courts (Court of Appeals and Supreme Court). Sometimes appealed cases can be used to guide the trial court on what to do procedurally such as, when multiple motions have been filed by both parties, which motion should be heard by the court first. Seems like an obvious answer so you might think that a motion that is filed first must be heard first. But that may not be true. Sterling Law had a case where if the court heard the motion that was filed first in time, the evidentiary hearing would have taken a couple of days. Instead, our attorney guided the court with recent cases that were heard by the Court of Appeals (where the second motion filed was actually heard first) and cut the hearing/trial time down to a few hours. If these cases had not been appealed in the first place, Sterling Law would have been unable to use them and our client would have spent a whole lot more money and gotten a potentially different outcome. When cases are appealed an attorney can also use them by drawing similarities between, and distinctions from, those appellate cases and their client's case to guide the trial court on what decision it should make. For example, Sterling Law had a case where there was a dispute whether interest accrued on the non-marital portion of a retirement account was marital property that should be equitably divided between the spouses. Our attorney was able to find appellate cases where such interest was treated as separate (i.e. non-marital) property and because of that convinced the trial court to exclude it from the division of marital property. The availability of cases dealing with this issue that were reviewed by the appellate court made a huge difference in our client's case and saved our client a substantial sum of money. So whatever your reason for taking your case to the Court of Appeals and whatever the outcome, your case will most certainly be part of a greater good to clarify the application of the existing law and perhaps even serve to improve it.

 

 

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