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How do I know that I have an appeal?

Litigants often are emotionally drained after a trial or litigation and want to appeal a losing or getting an unsatisfactory judgment or sentence.  But before spending more money or time or both, a vital decision needs to be made first: whether there is a potential appealable or defendable issue.  Trial lawyers have to know how to do a lot of things and do them quickly. But they are not appellate specialists, just as appellate specialists are not trial lawyers.

Before raising any issue on appeal, the record must show that (1) the issue was correctly  presented to the trial court and (2) the trial court refused the requested relief.  If trial counsel did not have an appellate lawyer involved at the trial level, it is possible that issues were not raised or properly objected to for later raising them in the court of appeals.  

So, to see whether issues were correctly preserved for appellate review and, therefore, whether you have a potential issue worth appealing, consult with an appellate lawyer to help you ascertain that.  We provide case analysis of your case for a minimal fee, which we will credit to your appeal retainer, if our review and research reflect that we can help you in prosecuting or defending your appeal.  If issues that you want to raise or defend on appeal were the wrong issues or were not preserved for appellate review, we can honestly tell you that and save you thousands of dollars you might otherwise spend on an appeal.

What are “probabilities of success”?

Appellate lawyers cannot guarantee success. Avoid any lawyer that does.  But experienced appellate lawyers can, after reading the record and studying the most current law on the issues, estimate chances, or “probabilities” of success.  Probabilities of success vary by court and by issue, and our experienced appellate lawyers can give you estimates of your candid "probabilities" of success after evaluating your appeal.

How much does your firm charge?

Your time searching is important. Let's be candid. Expect your appeal, to require anywhere from 60 hours (in very simple appeals) to more than 200 hours (in complex appeals). Because we have extensive appellate experience and are certified by The Florida Bar as "appellate specialists," we can work more efficiently and avoid more risks than attorneys who are not certified specialists.   

Our rates are highly competitive and value-based, wherein we work from estimates that we provide you in advance. We will review your case and lay out the costs of your legal fees up front, so you can plan them. We do not cut corners that put an appeal at risk. We will not over- or undercharge you. But remember that you do get what you pay for.  Since most appellate work is done in the early stages, a large retainer is usually required. 

 Our clients are regularly  impressed with our work product and the extraordinary attention that we give to clients and their appeals.

At EAP PLLC, you know board certified appellate specialists are running your appeal. Our fees reflect our expertise, experience, reputation and the value that we bring to your appeal.   

When will I go to court and how long does an appeal take?

An appeal is based on facts already established in the record (in the court file and in hearing and trial transcripts). An appeal, unlike a trial level matter, is based mainly on legal research, the record, legal briefs (they look like very large memorandums of law with legal argument) and oral arguments. Oral argument concerns legal argument to the appellate panel; no witnesses or parties are allowed to speak. You should be aware that, if you have a money judgment against you, an appeal will generally not stop the opposing party from executing on that judgment. An appellate bond is usually necessary to stay execution pending appeal. Similarly, if you have been convicted of a crime, chances are that you will be imprisoned during the course of your appeal.

Generally, an appeal from start (the notice of appeal) to finish (the court of appeals decision) takes about one years, though some are shorter and others are longer.

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Shouldn’t my trial lawyer handle my appeal?

Like physicians who are general practitioners and do not perform heart surgery, the appellate process today is very specialized and involves skills that are very different from trial level skills.  Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Ruggero Aldisert, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, described the following about the regular trial lawyer handling appellant argument:
"Arguing a case before a court of appeals is not easy today.  Judges know this and lawyers must understand this.  It takes a special kind of litigator, and top-flight litigators are hard to come. . . . Most so-called litigators are deposition takers.  They learn bad habits by taking and defending depositions in an unnecessarily confrontational atmosphere in which ad hominem attacks on opposing counsel are more the rule than the exception.  But even when litigators get before a trial judge, their performance is more fact-specific than law-oriented.  . . . often 'wing it' in arguing legal questions on the trial court level." (Ruggero Aldisert, Winning on Appeal at 33.)

A board certified appellate practitioner places great emphasis on the law, on appellate standards to review legal error, and on powerful writing that needs to be exceptional. A board certified appellate lawyer has the specialized training to look at the case detached from the emotional pull involved in the trial process and examine any potential legal error with fresh eyes and as an appellate expert. For these reasons, independent appellate counsel to advance or defend an appeal is smart and more cost-effective. It's that simple.

Are any sample briefs or motions available to review?  

We are proud of the work that this firm produces and will be glad to send you a copy upon your request.  Just email the firm by clicking here, let us know about yourself, the name of all the parties in your potential appeal (to be sure we have no conflict), the type of case (so we can send you an example or our work in that area of law) and provide us with your contact information in the event you would like a follow up call from our firm. 

What is the difference between an appeal and a trial?

Appeals and trials are very different. An appeal is not a “do-over.” In a trial level proceeding, evidence is collected (the discovery process) and presented for the first time in the courtroom before a fact-finder: either a jury (a jury trial) or the judge (a bench trial). During the trial, the judge decides what evidence will be heard, how it will be heard, and how it will be considered and weighed by the fact-finder. Depending on the issue, the judge’s rulings on that evidence may or may not affect how the evidence is weighed.

In an appeal, the appealing party is expected to focus on legal errors, not witness credibility, not how much weight the judge or jury gave to one piece of evidence. The appealing party argues that the trial judge committed error in how she decided a motion that was presented before trial (e.g. a motion to dismiss the complaint might even be raised again on a final appeal if its important enough). Or that the trial judge committed error in how she ruled on the evidence presented at trial. Or that the trial judge committed error in how she ruled on the instructions to the jury presented at trial. Or other similar issues
At the trial level, legal issues are generally prosecuted or defended by way of motions, brief hearings and a trial. At the appellate level, issues are prosecuted or defended by the written brief, with the legally important facts in the court record, the underlying law, and legal argument on how the error requires some kind of appellate remedy. The party defending the appeal files an answer brief. And then, often after oral argument in the court of appeals, the court of appeals decides whether the trial court committed a legal error, and, if so, the remedy needed to correct that error.