An appeal is when a party to a legal action asks a higher court to review a lower court’s ruling. A party usually appeals an unfavorable ruling on a particular issue or the entire outcome of the case. In essence, the party is arguing that there was an error in the legal process.
The appeal process can be very complicated. Usually, an appeal is based on a technical or legal issue rather than a factual issue.
Unlike in the lower court, there are no juries in appellate courts. Instead, a judge decides the outcome of the appeal. In many cases, the appeal will go before multiple courts. As a result, the process can last months or even years.
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Appellate Courts in Missouri
After your case has been heard in the circuit court, the next step is to appeal the case to the Missouri Court of Appeals. This is the intermediate appellate court. The Missouri Court of Appeals is the first step in the appeal process in most personal injury cases.
The Missouri Court of Appeals is divided into districts. You will file your appeal in a certain district based on the circuit court that heard your case. For example, if your case was heard in St. Louis, you will appeal to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District. This is located in the Old Post Office building in downtown St. Louis.
Supreme Court of Missouri
The Supreme Court of Missouri is the highest court in the state. In some cases, the Supreme Court of Missouri will hear an appeal. This may be an appeal from the Missouri Court of Appeals or directly from the circuit court depending on the issue.
The Supreme Court of Missouri has exclusive jurisdiction over certain types of cases. Exclusive jurisdiction means that these appeals go directly to the Supreme Court.
- The validity of a federal statute or treaty
- The validity of a Missouri law or constitutional provision
- The state’s revenue laws
- Challenges to statewide elected officials
- Imposition of the death penalty
Additionally, the Supreme Court of Missouri may choose to hear certain appeals from the Missouri Court of Appeals. However, they aren’t obligated to hear them.
What Is the Purpose of an Appeal?
The purpose of an appeal is to have an opportunity for a higher court to correct errors that happened in the lower court. The appellate process ensures that each party has a fair trial and access to justice.
When a judge decides on an appellate issue, they write an opinion. That opinion becomes part of the case law that lawyers use when litigating in the lower courts. As a result, a common purpose of an appeal is to contribute to the body of law on an issue. The appellate opinion applies not just to the current case, but also to future cases.
Common Grounds For Appeal in a Missouri Personal Injury Case
There are many different reasons why a party may choose to appeal a personal injury case in Missouri. However, appeals can generally only be filed based on an issue of the law, not a factual issue. Some parties cite multiple reasons for their appeal.
It’s common to appeal a personal injury case because:
- There was not enough evidence to support the jury’s verdict
- There was jury misconduct (for example, the jury consulted outside sources, deliberated with people outside of the jury, or concealed a bias)
- The judge excluded evidence that should have been admitted
- The judge admitted evidence that should have been excluded
- The court denied an expert witness the opportunity to testify
- The judge failed to follow proper procedure during the trial
You may choose to appeal in any type of personal injury case, no matter the severity or amount of the award. This includes car accidents, dog bites, and wrongful death cases. A personal injury lawyer can help you decide the exact grounds for your appeal.
The Appellate Process in Missouri
The appellate process in Missouri is governed by the Missouri Rules of Civil Procedure. A party has 10 days to file a notice of appeal after a final judgment. The notice must be filed in a particular manner and specify the parties, the basis for the appeal, and the court.
After filing the notice, the appellant will file the Record on Appeal which usually includes a transcript, the legal file, and any exhibits admitted in court. The next step is for both parties to file a brief. This brief will outline the specific grounds for the appeal and the law that supports it. Alternatively, the respondent will argue why the appeal should not be granted.
Next, the appeal is docketed for oral arguments. That’s when each lawyer argues the points in their brief and answers questions from the judges. After the oral argument, the judges deliberate and write a final opinion on the issue.