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The Civil Appeals Process

BochnewichLaw Offices Oct. 4, 2023

Though the judicial system in the United States is superior in many ways to the way legal matters are handled in other parts of the world, it is not without its flaws.  

Sometimes errors are made, resulting in an incorrect judgment being made, either in criminal or civil cases. If you have had a civil judgment against you that you feel was unjust, you do have the right to appeal the judgment. Though reversals of judgments are somewhat rare, there is a possibility that the judgment against you will instead be ruled in your favor. 

At the Bochnewich Law Offices, we are ready to help you through each step of the appeals process. From start to finish, we will be by your side to explain how the process works, what to expect, and how to position yourself to seek a more favorable outcome. If you live anywhere in Southern California, contact us to schedule a consultation where we can discuss your situation and review your options for filing an appeal. 

Understanding Civil Appeals

An appeal, in its most basic terms, is a party that has been ruled against in court asking an appellate court to review the judgment. Contrary to what many people think, an appeal does not “re-try” the case, look at any new evidence, call any witnesses, etc. Instead, the appellate court will review the judgment itself and determine if errors were made in the legal process that resulted in a faulty judgment being made. 

As mentioned above, statistically speaking, having judgments reversed is relatively rare. According to statistics published by the Judicial Council of California, less than 20% of civil appeals result in a reversal of the previous judgment. Despite such a low number of judgments being reversed, you should take every opportunity available to you to turn things in your favor. 

Who Can File a Civil Appeal? 

Under California law, any party in a civil case has the right to file an appeal to dispute the judgment made in the trial. It is important to note that you must be an official party involved in the case in which the previous judgment was made in order to file an appeal to have the judgment reviewed. 

Standards of Review

In an appeal, the court will review the previous judgment according to three standards of review: 

  • Abuse of Discretion — This standard involves determining if the court (or, more specifically, the judge presiding over the case) made an error in his or her discretion. An example of abuse of discretion would be a judge making a ruling not to allow a certain piece of evidence that could have potentially resulted in a different outcome in the case. 

  • Substantial Evidence — This standard of review involves the appellate court determining if the evidence submitted in the trial was substantial enough to result in the judgment that was made. The appellate court will not review the evidence to determine if they would have reached the same conclusion themselves but instead will determine if a “reasonable fact-finder” could have reached the same conclusion based on the evidence. 

  • De Novo — In a case of a “de novo” standard, the appellate court will essentially disregard the judgment made by the lower court and instead proceed by reviewing the case as though the previous judgment had never been made. This does not result in a “new trial” due to the appellate court not hearing any new testimony or viewing any new evidence, but rather reviewing the previously recorded testimony and evidence from the previous trial. 

Though the appellate court will not look at new evidence or hear new testimony, if a determination is made that an error occurred during the trial, you could potentially receive a different outcome. 

Steps in the Civil Appeals Process

The specific steps involved in the civil appeals process are as follows: 

  1. Determining if you have standing to file an appeal. 

  1. Filing the notice of appeal to let the appellate court know you are disputing the lower court’s ruling. 

  1. Designating the record and filings the appellate court will receive regarding your case. 

  1. Preparing and filing a brief with the appellate court to outline your argument to have the previous judgment reversed. 

  1. Giving of oral arguments, in which both parties from the previous judgment will be allowed to restate their claims. 

  1. Receiving the appellate court's judgment. 

Getting a lower court’s judgment reversed is difficult and rare, but it does happen. If a judgment was made against you in error, working with a skilled civil appeals attorney to move your appeal forward will give you the chance to make things right. 

Get the Skilled Legal Guidance You Need

Legal matters are notorious for being complicated and difficult for non-lawyers to understand. If you have had a civil judgment made against you, you may have a lot on the line. With so much riding on the challenging appeals process, you owe it to yourself to seek help from trained legal professionals. A law firm with extensive experience in the civil appeals process can help you take the appropriate steps to file an appeal and move toward the opportunity you need to seek a better resolution. 

If you are in the greater Southern California area — including San Diego County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Bernardino County, or Riverside County — and are looking for legal representation or guidance in the civil appeals process, we are ready to meet with you and start working on your appeal. Though every situation is different, we focus on providing each client with the individualized attention their case deserves. Contact our team at Bochnewich Law Offices today to schedule a consultation and begin the process.