The Standard of Review
We offer appellate services in all four departments of the New York State Appellate Division and the New York State Court of Appeals.
Our staff has experience with both civil and criminal matters, and at the Fourth Department Appellate Division.
We will give your case a complete analysis on the merits, at no cost, so you can make an informed decision as to whether you should proceed with an appeal. Time deadlines for appeals are strictly enforced, so it is important to contact an attorney as soon as you have an appealable issue because you do not want to be closed out from having the right to take your case to court.
You are welcome to contact our offices directly to discuss your case. We can be reached Monday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or email email@example.com. There is no charge for an initial consultation.
The Appellate Process
What is the appellate process?
Appellate courts correct errors in the application of law, reverse decisions based on incorrectly applied rules, interpret the meaning of statutes, and create legal rules/doctrine to be applied to future cases. The person who brings the appeal is called the “appellant”, and the person against whom the court’s decision is being appealed is called the “appellee”.
American courts are based on the common law system. Within the common law system, a lower court (having what we call “original jurisdiction”) hears the case and issues a judgment that applies a set of legal principles to the facts determined to exist within the case. Appellate courts are in place to correct errors, in any, with the trial court’s application of the law. The judgment of the trial court may be upheld, modified, or reversed. The first court to which a trial court judgment is immediately appealable is called an “intermediate court of appeal”. The highest court of a legal system is set in place to review decisions of the intermediate appellate court.
In New York State, this highest appellate court is called the “New York State Court of Appeals”. In the federal system, the United States Supreme Court is the highest court, itself having jurisdiction in many cases to review the determinations of the New York State Court of Appeals. It is important to note that, unlike the federal system, the New York State Supreme Court is the lowest court in the state, having original jurisdiction over most civil matters.
What is stare decisis, and why does it matter?
The American legal system operates on a principle known as “stare decisis”. Stare decisis is short for the Latin maxim stare decisis et no quieta movere (“stand by the decision and do not disturb the undisturbed”). In practice, stare decisis requires that like cases are treated alike. At its heart, stare decisis is a basic legal principle of equality that requires courts to apply the same legal rules to decide cases with similar facts. Stare decisis ensures equal justice under the law, because your case will be decided the same way regardless of the party’s political, economic, or ethnic status.
The legal principles applied to decide cases at the trial level almost always originate from appellate courts, or from appellate interpretations of statutory law. Lower courts are bound to apply the principles and legal interpretations of higher courts that have jurisdiction over them. Courts are free to overturn their own past decisions (although this rarely occurs due to stare decisis), but a lower court may never overturn the decision of a higher court within the its system.
Can I appeal my case?
As with most issues in the law, the answer is “it depends”. You should not make the determination to appeal or waive your right to appeal a decision without consulting a licensed attorney. Generally, appeals are worthy of consideration when a lower court has misapplied the law to your case, or made a clear error. It is important to keep in mind that appellate courts will usually not reverse errors unless your attorney “preserved the issue for appeal”.