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Appellate Courts

15 January, 2016 - 09:29

The losing party in a general jurisdiction court can almost always appeal to either one or two higher courts. These intermediate appellate courts—usually called courts of appeal—have been established in forty states. They do not retry the evidence, but rather determine whether the trial was conducted in a procedurally correct manner and whether the appropriate law was applied. For example, the appellant (the losing party who appeals) might complain that the judge wrongly instructed the jury on the meaning of the law, or improperly allowed testimony of a particular witness, or misconstrued the law in question. The appellee (who won in the lower court) will ask that the appellant be denied—usually this means that the appellee wants the lower-court judgment affirmed. The appellate court has quite a few choices: it can affirm, modify, reverse, or reverse and remand the lower court (return the case to the lower court for retrial).

The last type of appeal within the state courts system is to the highest court, the state supreme court, which is composed of a single panel of between five and nine judges and is usually located in the state capital. (The intermediate appellate courts are usually composed of panels of three judges and are situated in various locations around the state.) In a few states, the highest court goes by a different name: in New York, it is known as the court of appeals. In certain cases, appellants to the highest court in a state have the right to have their appeals heard, but more often the supreme court selects the cases it wishes to hear. For most litigants, the ruling of the state supreme court is final. In a relatively small class of cases—those in which federal constitutional claims are made—appeal to the US Supreme Court to issue a writ of certiorari remains a possibility.