How do Appeals Really Work?

Northbrook Attorney

When the decision of a lower court is unsatisfactory or you believe that something might have gone wrong during the litigation process, you have the option of getting the case reviewed by a higher court. The court of appeal may or may not reverse the decision, depending on the facts of the case.

In Illinois, trial courts, otherwise known as county circuit courts, hear cases first. Once the circuit court has given its decision, either party can then appeal to the appellate court to reverse the decision. Your attorney can be instrumental in having your case reviewed by the appellate court.

When Can I File for an Appeal?

Generally, all final judgments can be appealed. However, being unhappy with the circuit court’s decision is not a good enough reason to appeal the decision. There has to be a solid reason, for example, the verdict goes against the evidence you presented or the judge made some errors that your attorney can point out.

You should know that there is a time limit for filing an appeal. A notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days of the final judgment being given by the circuit court. In Illinois, these rules regarding the time limit have to be strictly adhered to.

What Happens During an Appeal?

After a notice of appeal has been filed within the time limit by the appealing party, a docketing statement has to be filed with the appellate court. This docketing statement gives the appellate court general information about the case. The Record on Appeal must also be obtained from the circuit court and filed with the appellate court as it contains every important document about the case.

After those documents have been filed, both parties are expected to submit written briefs that explain why they should win on appeal. The first brief must be submitted by the appellant within 35 days of filing the Record on Appeal. The appellee must submit a response brief within 35 days after the first brief. The last is to be submitted by the appellant 14 days after the due date of the second brief.

Most times, the appellate court will make its decision based solely on the briefs but occasionally, there is a short oral argument by both parties. The appellate court does not accept new evidence or hold a trial.

After the Appeal

The appellate court will send its decision out in writing after considering the briefs and transcript from the circuit court. The appellate court may either affirm the decision of the circuit court, reverse it or remand the case. When a case is remanded, the appellate court is asking the circuit court to take new action on the case.

If the decision of the appellate court is still unsatisfactory, you can petition the Supreme Court to hear the case but this is often a long and complex process.

The litigation process can be difficult to understand and experience alone. Contact us here to help you through this journey.