What is the difference between a trial and an appeal?
Trials Establish Facts
Trial is about resolving factual disputes. Each side to the dispute tells their version of the facts and a judge or jury decides which facts to believe. This is where the charisma and story-telling skills of a trial attorney are tested. Their factual account is presented through witness testimony and trial exhibits. Ultimately there is only one version of the facts decided, which may include parts from each side's presentation. The law is then applied to the resulting facts and a decision is rendered.
A formal judgment is issued when a trial has concluded and a verdict has been rendered by a judge or jury. The date on which that judgment is entered into the trial court's computer docketing system is the docketing date. The docketing date is critical because it is the date from which timely post-judgment motions and appellate litigation is measured. If you have not engaged an appellate attorney, now is the time to do so.
Appeals Establish Errors
An appeal is a review of what happened in the trial court (before, during, and after the trial). An appeal begins with a proper and timely filed notice of appeal. The case on appeal becomes a very technical review of what occurred in the trial court. The rules and presentations are much more exacting on appeal. A new type of lawyer is needed, an appellate attorney.
An attorney who focuses his practice on appellate litigation can better evaluate cases for appeal. Appellate counsel brings a fresh perspective unhampered by decisions made in the trial court. The presentation of the case on appeal is very different. The work of an appellate attorney is largely grounded in legal research and writing, the foundation of every appeal. An experienced appeals lawyer knows what appellate judges want and how to provide them with what they need to properly decide the case on appeal.
Appellate counsel knows the types of errors made by trial attorneys, juries, and judges. An experienced appellate attorney is well versed in addressing those errors on appeal. The standard of review for each issue raised on appeal is paramount. The appellate court will review any error from the affect the error had on the outcome of the trial court decision based the established appellate standard of review.
More answers to frequently ask questions about appeals are available on this website. If you have additional questions, or are ready to proceed with your appeal, call Appellate Attorney William Driscoll at 978-846-5184.