How can I tell if I have an appeal?

An appellant specialist should be able to tell you. If the attorney has your interests at heart, he or she will honestly tell you whether you have an appeal and the economic consequences of your decision to appeal. For instance, as an appellant you may risk having to pay the attorney fees for both your attorney and the opposing attorney if you are unsuccessful. The most common misunderstanding by laypersons is what constitutes an appealable issue. The court of appeal is not concerned with issues of credibility, believing those issues were best determined by the trial court or the jury who actually observed the demeanor of the parties. The court of appeal is only concerned with errors committed during trial; it is not the place for a retrial or proving the other side is a liar. Often your appellate attorney cannot tell if you have an appeal until after he or she has read the reporter’s transcripts, and therefore, the attorney will often charge to make this assessment. This charge can range from $500-$2,000.

How much will an appeal cost?

Based on my hourly rate and the typical time involved, an average appeal can cost $20,000 to $50,000. Short, single-issue appeals may be lower. Complex appeals, including those involving voluminous records, can be higher as would be an appeal that finds its way to the Supreme Court. A client is also obligated to pay costs, including a filing fee, costs of obtaining the clerk’s and reporter’s transcripts, and printing costs. These costs can range $1,000-10,000. Since most of the work is done in the early stages, a large retainer is customarily required.

How long will an appeal take?

Generally, from 1-2 years, depending upon the court’s calendar and backlog.

If I won at trial, do I have to do anything?

Yes. First and foremost, as a respondent you have a judgment to protect. While the odds are in your favor, there is still a chance for reversal or modification, including a reduction in your judgment, so you are taking a chance if you do not respond to an appeal. It is not absolutely required, but the appeal will go forward, with or without your participation.  You might as well maximize your chances for success.

What are my chances of success?

Your chances of success may vary from court to court, but generally, you have a 15-25% chance of a complete reversal. The chances for a writ petition being granted are probably around 5%, while a petition for review before the Supreme Court has about a 1% chance of being granted. You should also know that if you have a money judgment against you, an appeal will not stop execution on the judgment. An appellate bond, another expense, will be required to stay execution.

Will I need to go to court?

Unlike a trial, the emphasis on appeal is on the written briefs. Oral argument occurs only at the end of the process, at which time the attorneys typically have 15 minutes (usually less) to argue a case. No witnesses or parties are permitted to speak. You may choose to attend or not. While oral argument is an important part of the process, in reality, it rarely changes the justices’ opinion.

Why should I choose you?

My certification tells you that I’ve reached a certain level of expertise. What it doesn’t tell you is that before certification I had already prepared hundreds of appellate briefs. Certification also does not tell you that I am extremely dedicated, thorough, and creative. Once retained, my goal is to help you, whether it be by telling you not to appeal or to pursue review in the Supreme Court. I also have an established reputation with both judges and justices in the legal community, an important element in establishing credibility for your appeal.

How do you charge?

I can either bill at an hourly rate or, in special cases, on a project or contingency basis.  Certified specialists will charge $450 – $800 per hour.  I can discuss these options with you after reviewing the record and conducting preliminary research.

What other services do you provide?

I also prepare writ petitions, which are interim, emergency “appeals,” filed in cases where a typical appeal is not an adequate remedy. I work with attorneys on pre-trial motions to ensure that the record to be reviewed by the court of appeal is adequate. As a fundamental appellate rule, the court of appeal will not consider issues or objections not raised at the trial level, so the record must preserve those points. I also handle post-trial motions, such as motions for new trial or judgment notwithstanding the verdict.