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Appeal & Juvenile Appeal


There are two kinds of courts: trial courts and courts of appeal (also called appellate courts).Trial courts hold trials where the parties present evidence and witnesses, and a verdict is decided by a judge or jury. After a trial, one party wins and the other loses. If the losing party believes that he or she did not receive a fair trial that party may appeal to a court of appeals. Both the state and federal systems have appellate courts.

An appeal is not a second trial. During a trial all of the testimony and statements by the judge and lawyers are recorded, word for word. If a party appeals, the record of everything that was said at the trial is transcribed and provided to the court of appeals, together with a copy of the trial court’s file, for review. On appeal, the parties may only raise facts or issues which are contained in the record.

An appeal is started by filing a “notice of appeal” in the trial court. Then the record is transmitted to the court of appeals. The party who files the notice of appeal is the appellant, and the party who will answer the appeal is the appellee. There are strict time limits within which to file a notice of appeal. If the notice of appeal is not filed in time, the right to appeal may be lost.

Once the court of appeals has the record, the appellant, through his or her attorney, files an “opening brief.” The brief contains written arguments that identify errors the appellant believes were made in the trial court. I have filed more than 1,300 appeals over the course of my career.

After the opening brief is filed by the appellant, the appellee files an “answering brief.” The answering brief presents answers to the issues raised in the opening brief. Then the appellant has the option of filing a “reply brief.”

Once the briefs are filed, the court of appeals issues a ruling, based upon the arguments contained in the briefs. Occasionally the appellate court conducts an oral argument, where the attorneys for each side appear in court to discuss the merits of the case directly with a panel of three appellate judges. I have had oral arguments in more than 40 cases, resulting in a number of published opinions.

The court of appeals will either rule in favor of the appellant, by stating what relief it is granting, or it may rule against the appellant, by affirming the trial court’s ruling. Sometimes the court of appeals will send a case back to the trial court with instructions on how it wants the trial court to proceed.

If either party does not agree with the decision of the court of appeals, he may appeal further to the Supreme Court of the state (Arizona in our case), or to the U.S. Supreme Court in federal and some state cases.

Juvenile Appeals

If you have been charged with a crime as a juvenile and adjudicated delinquent, you also have the right to appeal your conviction to the Arizona Court of Appeals. The rules and procedures are very similar to those discussed in the general appeals section of this website, but juvenile cases are considered priority cases by the Arizona Court of Appeals, which means that your appeal will be resolved much more quickly. Additionally, if you have a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, it will be raised on appeal instead of in a Rule 32 petition, as in adult court.

For additional information, see Rule 32