What are appeals and why are they important?
Appeals are an indispensable part of every court system. They rest at the heart
of every fair, democratic, and equitable court or adjudicatory system. They not
only guarantee your right to be heard but also to question any decision against
you and make your grievance known.
But many do not know the power or importance of an appeal. Some feel that appeals
represent an avenue for lawyers to earn more legal fees or satisfy their incredible
desire to win. Many even make the mistake of deciding not to question a
decision on appeal, because of these considerations.
You should understand appeals as a legitimate option for you to pursue in any
adjudicatory process. In fact, in many situations, you may have a fundamental right
to appeal. If you choose not to take the option or if you have a lawyer that is
not skilled in the appellate process, it could severely impact your right, and in
many cases, your liberty.
At the Law Offices of Clayton R. Kaeiser, we understand the weighty nature of the
right to appeal. With over 35 years of experience trying and defending criminal
matters, attorney Clayton R. Kaeiser , has argued hundreds of appeals. His
vast experience has earned him the certification of “criminal trial specialist” and he
is recognized as an expert in both at the trial and appellate stages.
On numerous of occasions, he has helped clients, who thought their case to be
lost, fight unfavorable decisions and have them reversed on appeal. He knows the
value of appeals and will use his experience, both at the trial and appellate stages,
to find you the best outcome.
In this article, you will learn exactly what appeals are and why they are important to
you. You will also learn about their history and how they may be used to secure the
best outcome for you.
What is an appeal?
Appeal challenge the decision of a court or adjudicatory body. When a decision
is made that is unfavorable to one of the parties, the decision may be
submitted to a higher court for review. The process of submitting the decision before
the higher court is known as an appeal.
For appeals to exist, there must be some sort of organized court system. If there
were no higher court to review the decision, then there would be no talk of appeals.
All states in the US have such court systems and the federal level as well. In
Florida, for instance, the court system is comprised of county courts, circuit courts,
district courts of appeal and the Florida Supreme Court. Only the courts at the
appellate level ordinarily hear appeals. This means that appeals in Florida will
ordinarily go to any one of the 5 district courts of appeal or the Supreme Court.
In certain cases, you may have a right of appeal. This means that failing to take
the option of appeal in those cases would amount to waiving your guaranteed
right. Such cases are called appeals “as of right”. Examples of cases where you have
a right of appeal include an adverse judgment in a criminal trial.
In other cases, appeals are only allowed “by permission”. In this category of
cases, you need to obtain the permission of the higher court before you can
submit the case for review. An example of such a case is an appeal from an
interlocutory decision of the court. Interlocutory decisions are not final, they are
made before or during the trial e.g. decision on a motion raised by one party
against the other.
History of appeals
Appellate courts have existed for thousands of years. Many ancient civilizations such
as Hammurabi’s first dynasty of Babylon had appellate courts. The monarch himself,
sitting with his governors, served as the final court of the land.
The essence of this system of appeals ensured that everyone could receive the
King’s Justice. Courts were only created to allow more people access to justice, but
the monarch had the final say on that justice.
In much the same way, modern courts constitute a hierarchy. The more
experienced judges sit in the higher courts where they can review cases from lower
courts and ensure that justice is done.
The mechanism of appeals did not always exist in the US though. The first systems of
federal appellate courts, though created in 1789, did not formally recognize a right to
appeal until 1889. Today, while you may not have a right of appeal on every decision
of a criminal court, there is a firm recognition that parties may have a right to appeal.
Importance of appeals
Appeals are an incredibly important part of the Florida and US court systems.
Here are some reasons why:
• Fair judicial process : Every American has a fundamental right to fair hearing. To
help achieve this right, trial court decisions should be subject to review. If there
were no provision for appeals, then trial court decisions would be final, even
when they involve clear errors. This would certainly make for an unfair judicial
process and will result in undue hurt to a lot of people.
• Question and test the law : Appeals are a crucial tool to test the provisions of the
law. Many controversial provisions of the law have existed for years, causing
hardship. Appeals help question these parts of the law so their flaws can be
• Shape legal precedents : Appellate courts are important to helping shape the law.
In many appeal cases, these courts have an opportunity to consider controversial
or untested portions of the law and clarify these areas. Attorney Clayton R.
Kaeiser has argued many appeals that have helped make the law better.
• Avoid error : Judges are human and, just like everyone else, also make mistakes.
But their mistakes are significant in criminal cases, since your liberty or property
is at stake. Appeals enable your criminal lawyer to challenge these erroneous
decisions and turn them around in your favor.
Common grounds for appeal
Grounds for appeal are the reasons for which a judgment is being challenged at a
higher court. There are many reasons why this challenge may be made. The include:
• Improper exclusion or inclusion of evidence
• Incorrect jury instructions
• Juror misconduct
• Sentencing errors
• Decision made in ignorance of a material law
• Lack of sufficient evidence to support a finding of guilt
• Error of law or fact
Appeal case studies
At the Law Offices of Clayton R. Kaeiser, we have helped many clients
overturn unfavorable decisions from the trial court on appeal. Some of our past cases
• United States v. Machado : In this case, the defendant was on trial for white
collar theft and was convicted at the trial court. Attorney Clayton R. Kaeiser
appealed the decision and argued strongly, convincing the court to overturn the
lower court’s sentence.
• United States v. Ben Johnson : The defendant was convicted at the trial court and
accordingly sentenced. Attorney Clayton R. Kaeiser intervened in the matter,
writing an appeal brief for the defendant, whose conviction and sentence were
eventually reversed on appeal.
• United States v. Levy : The defendant received an unfavorable decision. Attorney
Clayton R. Kaeiser successfully appealed the case to the US Supreme Court
through a writ of certiorari. The Supreme Court granted the writ.
As all these cases show, decisions at the trial court have a chance of being reversed
on appeal. We understand this and that is why we always take the long view of
our clients’ cases.
Get in touch with us
Our policy is to prepare your case thoroughly so you will have the best chance of
success, both at trial and on appeal. Call us on (305) 371-4989 to schedule a free,
no-obligation consultation today.
I drove up to the Broward County courthouse early in the morning for a routine bond hearing. We ended up waiting most of the morning and never did start the hearing. Our Judge was Peter Weinstein, one of the better judges in Broward County and usually also one of the most punctual judges. But Judge Weinstein did not take the bench that morning. Every few minutes, his bailiff appeared from a side door and whispered to the Clerks and BSO Court Deputies, while the growing crowd in the courtroom milled around in its own impatience. Without TVs and radios, we soon found out the awful through the old-fashioned courtroom grapevine: our country had been attacked.
The date was September 11, 2001, and the world would never be the same again. Hard to believe it all happened 18 years ago. My daughter not even alive then, not even a hint of her existence. Those of us who lived through the day will never forget it, huddled with others around a T.V. watching scenes that could have been lifted from a horror movie. It inspired fear and fury, emotions that have come to define the era after the attack. Somehow we managed to survive the tragedy without blowing up the rest of the world but the option always hovers over us.
While in law school in New York, I used to go to the World Trade Center for pro bono representation of unemployment compensation applicants in administrative hearings. We had our “Barrister’s Ball” in the Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the North Tower. Traveling up the elevators (you had to switch to a new elevator bank about halfway up) felt like moving into another world, and the view from the top confirmed the belief. One of my law school classmates made a fortune in the private equities market and celebrated his good fortune by moving his business into an office in the world above the clouds. Needless to say, his good fortune turned ironic on September 11, as he experienced the attack from his office window and never made it home from work.
The world changes and the world moves on through its changes. People change too, but some of the changes we all share, and the September 11 experience is the biggest shared change of my lifetime. The only thing coming close was the JFK assassination, and, while I remember it, I was only six years when it happened. I hope not to live through another shared change the magnitude of either.