If you find yourself needing to appeal an incorrect result at trial, or facing an appeal of a hard-won judgment, you will soon know and understand the difference between trial law and appellate law. We are admitted to practice before both of our state appellate courts — the Court of Appeals of Georgia and the Supreme Court of Georgia — and we have handled multiple cases in each.
See an appellate attorney immediately! You have a very limited time — usually 30 days from the date that the trial court’s judgment is entered — before you must act to preserve your opportunity to appeal the judgment. Your appellate attorney can help you decide whether an appeal will be worthwhile. The more time your appellate attorney has to study your case before filing a notice of appeal or application for discretionary review, the better your chances of securing a favorable outcome.
Certain types of cases are “directly appealable,” meaning that the appellate attorney can start the appeal process by simply filing a notice of appeal in the trial court. Other types of cases — including many family law cases — are subject to the discretionary application procedure. This basically means that you must ask the appropriate appellate court for permission to appeal the case before doing so. If a party fails to apply for discretionary appeal when such application is required, the party’s appeal rights will likely be lost forever.
The timelines for filing a notice of appeal or an application for discretionary review are the same. However, much greater effort, care, and attention must go into an application for discretionary appeal. For cases subject to the discretionary application procedure, the appellate attorney must give compelling reasons why an appeal would be appropriate in order to maximize the chance that the appellate court will grant permission to appeal. This is why it is critical to present your case to an appellate attorney as soon as possible after you receive an adverse judgment.
Appellate courts exist to correct errors of law made by the trial court. Our appellate courts do not normally re-decide issues of fact at the appellate level. In other words, the findings of fact made by the trial court will almost always stand, even if an appeal is filed. An appeal is not an opportunity to get another judge to decide the facts differently. An appeal can, however, change the outcome of a case entirely if the trial judge made an erroneous ruling of law.
While some trial attorneys are also excellent appellate attorneys, this is not always the case. Trial attorneys who are well versed in appellate law are typically adept at preserving error in the trial court. Preserving error is the process by which the trial attorney identifies the error that the trial judge is making at the time that it is being made and notes in the record the attorney’s objection to the error. If this is not done properly, your right to ask the appellate courts to correct the error may be lost forever. Trial attorneys who understand the appellate process can identify important issues and potential points of appeal as they are occurring in trial, and thus they are in an excellent position to preserve error for appeal.
Appeals are handled on an hourly-fee basis.
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