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The Value of an Appeal

May 17, 2023

Of course, each case must be analyzed based on its own facts, the strength of the legal positions, the amount of money at issue, and any long-term ramifications of the result. In addition, there are limited grounds for relief available at the appellate level.

At the trial level, the factfinder, whether a judge or jury, has the opportunity to observe and assess the demeanor of the witnesses and the attorneys. At the appellate level, the judges and their clerks are limited to viewing the evidence as it exists in the lower court record. While there may be an occasional video or some photographs, the record typically consists primarily of transcripts and documents. A transcript does not capture everything that occurs at a trial, such as the length of a pause in testimony, a blush, an eyebrow raise, or a look of surprise, as some examples.  Therefore, appellate courts give great deference to any factual determinations, and you will have to meet a high threshold of error to overturn any such determination on appeal.

Appellate courts are more concerned with the law than the facts. Many cases rise and fall on legal rulings, such as, for example, the interpretation of a statute, a contractual provision, or the constitution; decisions on regulatory issues; and the exercise of administrative decision-making. Appellate courts review these issues de novo, which gives them greater leeway to reverse the lower court’s ruling than issues of fact. If there was a ruling on a matter of law that was erroneous, made new law, and/or that will create problems for your business going forward, it may be beneficial to appeal the issue.

Overall, whether to pursue an appeal requires an assessment of cost versus the probability of success. While there are never any guarantees, if you have a strong legal position, spending a few dollars to consult with an experienced appellate lawyer may be well worth the undertaking.

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