Appeals are very different from trials. Unlike trials or hearings, an appeal focuses on errors of law committed by the trial judge. The appellate courts do not hear new evidence; they review proceedings that occurred in the District or Superior Courts to determine whether the trial court correctly applied the law.
The appellate process begins with a notice of appeal, which must be given and served on the other party within a set period of time. After a party gives notice of appeal, there are strict deadlines for ordering the transcript and serving the record on appeal. The appellate attorney must comb through the record and transcript of the trial proceedings to identify errors of law that may be addressed by the higher courts. After compiling the record, the appellant’s attorney will write and file a brief that lays out their arguments on appeal. The brief should include a compelling statement of facts and well-reasoned legal arguments supported by case law, statutes, and other authority. Once the appellant files their brief, the appellee will have 30 days to respond. After that, the appellant has a short window in which to submit a reply brief responding to the appellee’s arguments.
The appellate court decides the outcome based on the record and the briefs. Sometimes, the judges on the reviewing court will seek additional clarification of the issues by way of oral argument. At oral argument, in addition to answering the judges’ questions about the facts and procedures of the case, the attorney must explain, justify, and advocate for the relief requested. Finally, the appellate court will issue a decision. The court may affirm, reverse, vacate, remand, or order a new trial.
Appeals require a thorough mastery of the facts and law, in addition to concise, well-crafted written and oral arguments. Mary McCullers Reece has handled more than 300 direct appeals in the Supreme Court of North Carolina and the North Carolina Court of Appeals, originating from 73 of North Carolina's 100 counties. She has successfully fought for clients on appeal from criminal convictions and pleas, sentencing and probationary hearings, custody and terminations of parental rights, contempt and equitable distribution, cases involving ineffective assistance of counsel, and other civil and criminal matters.
If you would like to talk to us about an appeal, please feel free to inquire at email@example.com to see if we may be able to help.