The appeals process is one of the most important components of the U.S. justice system. It is purposed to address problems with original verdicts with respect to the improper substantive application of the law and potential procedural errors made by the court. Appeals are handled in a similar fashion to an original jurisdictional case, but generally no new evidence can be presented in an appeal. All additional evidence must be a clarification of a previously established fact or concern from the original ruling. Each state such as Alabama has the authority to structure the process in a manner that helps the court reach the proper decision while still providing the basics of due process for all appellants.
THE APPEALS STEPS
The steps in a verdict appeal is the same for both criminal and civil cases. However, there are two divisions that handle the cases separately in Alabama. While the procedures are very similar, the dynamics of an appeals verdict are often much different. The state appellate court must be notified within 45 days following the original ruling of intent to appeal by submitting an official notice. The next step is filing the record on appeal, and then briefs are submitted from each party explaining their position regarding the lower court decision.
One area where an appeals court differs from an original court of jurisdiction is argument presentation. All evidence can be laid out by both parties in a district or circuit court matter, but appeals hearings deal specifically with previously established elements of a case. There are instances where new evidence can be presented regarding certain material case facts, but they are rare. Conflict or interest is a typical example of when this may apply. Hearings are also not necessarily a requirement, but either party, as well as the appeals court, can request an open hearing to review the issues addressed in the appeals record.
It is not uncommon for appellants in Alabama to retain a different legal representative in an appeals case. The restrictive nature of the procedure means that appellants often fare much better with an attorney who focuses a significant portion of their practice handling appeals cases specifically, and an experienced attorney can often have an impact on a verdict reversal.