The federal court system has structures and rules that differ significantly from state court procedures. Broadly, there are three tiers of federal courts: district courts, where trials are heard, circuit courts, where appeals are heard, and the United States Supreme Court, which is the court of last resort for our judicial system.
After a judgment has been entered in federal district court, the loser may appeal to the applicable circuit court. Appeals are governed by the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. These appeals are first heard by a panel composed of three circuit court judges. The loser at trial court will file a brief seeking reversal of the decision below, and the winner will file a separate brief asserting that the trial court decision should be affirmed. In unusual circumstances, the entire circuit court may consider an appeal “en banc,” meaning that all the judges hear and decide the case, rather than a panel of three.
The United States Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States, and it may choose to hear and decide appeals in all federal court cases as well as state court cases that deal with federal law. The United States Supreme Court only hears a small percentage of cases it is asked to review, meaning the decision from the Circuit Court of Appeals will usually be the final word in the case.
When considering whether to appeal, you should keep in mind the following: 1. Appeals are extremely time-sensitive. Once a judgment is filed, there are hard deadlines that cannot be waived or extended. You must decide quickly. 2. You need qualified appellate counsel. You should choose an attorney with experience handling appeals, a specialized appellate practice, and the resources to handle an appeal from start to finish.
Bundy Law has a dedicated, full-time appellate practice. The appellate reference books and treatises necessary for a dedicated appeals practice group are expensive, and we have them in our library. Our case management software includes award-winning brief-writing and editing technology designed especially for appellate work. Lead partners Kathleen Egan and Aaron Bundy have experience meeting deadlines, writing briefs, and making oral arguments before appellate courts.
If you prevailed in the trial court, you would need an appellate lawyer should your opponent choose to appeal. You cannot take anything for granted. Your appellate counsel will need to write a brief showing that the district court’s procedure and judgment were sound.