• The following is a very general description of the appelate process in federal appeals and Florida state court appeals for informational purposes only.  

    • Notice of Appeal—A party that is unhappy with a decision of a trial court initiates a first level appeal (e.g., an appeal from a judgment of a U.S. District Court to a U.S. Court of Appeals or an appeal from a final judgment or order of a Florida Circuit Court to a District Court of Appeal) by filing a Notice of Appeal with the clerk of the trial court.  Appeals may not be taken from any decision of a trial court, but only from a final order or judgment.  In limited circumstances, appeals are allowed from certain types of non-final orders (which are listed in Rule 9.030(b)) of Florida Circuit Courts, or in federal cases, from certain types of interlocutory orders where specific conditions are present.   There are strict time limits for filing a Notice of Appeal (in most appeals from final judgments, the time limit is 30 days).  The time limit generally cannot be extended.
    • Preparation of the Record—The clerk of the trial court prepares the Record, which will be transmitted to the appellate court.  The record consists of the documents filed in the trial court, transcripts of court hearings and trials, the orders and judgments of the trial court.  But the party that initiated the appeal (called the appellant) has the responsibility to ensure that the record contains all of the documents and transcripts that party wants included.  If the appellant wants transcripts of hearings or the trial included in the record, he/she/it must make arrange with the court reporter for an official transcript to be made and submitted to the court.    Appellants generally must give their instructions regarding transcripts and record contents shortly after filing the notice of appeal (within 10 days in most state court appeals in Florida, 14 days in most federal appeals).
    • Docketing Statements and/or Disclosures—Many appellate courts require appellants to file statements identifying the parties involved in the case, the names of the attorney(s) representing those parties (if known), and sometimes the names of anyone else whose interests are involved in the case, and/or the issues involved in the appeal.
    • Appellate Briefing—Appellate judges decide cases primarily based on the parties’ briefs, which lay out their legal arguments for why the decision of the court below should be reversed or affirmed.  No new evidence is presented on appeal, as the only facts considered are the facts that are in the trial court record.  Appellate briefs thus primarily deal with legal arguments regarding the correctness of the court’s interpretation of the law or its application to the facts of the case.
    • Oral Argument—In some, but not all, appeals, either party may request that the court allow the parties to appear in person before the judges deciding their case to orally argue their respective positions and answer any questions the judges may have for them.  In many courts, oral arguments begin with each side attempting to make a presentation of its position, but quickly devolve into a question-and-answer session with the judges asking each side to address what they see as weak points in each side’s position, and to respond to their opponents’ arguments.
    • The Appellate Court’s Decision—Appellate courts issue written decisions stating the disposition of the appeal.  In some, but not all cases, those decisions are accompanied by an opinion explaining the reasons for the court’s decision.  The amount of time it takes to decide a case varies with the complexity of the issues and the workload of the courts.  In Florida state appeals, most decisions are issued less than 6 months after oral argument, and generally less than one year after the initiation of the appeal.  In federal appeals, decisions are issued anywhere from a few months to more than 2 years after the commencement of the appeal.
      1. The Initial Brief is the primary submission of the appellant, which sets forth the facts of the case and the reasons the appellant believes the decision below was erroneous.

      2. The Answer Brief is the primary submission of the party who prevailed in the court below (which is called the appellee), setting forth its arguments in defense of the decision below.

      3. The Reply Brief is the appellant’s opportunity to try to rebut the arguments advanced by the appellee in its Answer Brief.

    • Petitions for Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc, Motions for Clarification—The party that loses the appeal may ask the the three judges who decided the appeal to re-consider their decision under very specific circumstances, such as where the decision is based on a mistake regarding the the facts found by the court below or where there has been a change in the law.  It may also ask for the court to vote whether to consider the appeal en banc, meaning that all of judges, rather than a panel of three, would hear the appeal.  Such petitions are appropriate only in limited circumstances, such as where the decision in the case conflicts with another decision of the same court on the same legal issues, or where the decision is based on the court’s legal interpretation in an earlier case, and there are strong reasons for the court to consider overruling that interpretation.  If the decisions implications are unclear, either party may ask the court to clarify its decision.
    • Motions—Parties to an appeal can also file motions prior to the court issuing its decision in certain circumstances.  For example, if the appellee believes that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the case, it can move to dismiss the case.  Other types of motions include motions for extensions of time, motions to supplement the record, and motions to file an over-length brief.
    • Petitions for Review—In cases where the court can choose to hear the appeal at its discretion, the party requesting review must file additional papers to argue in favor of accepting the case.  For example, when the Florida Supreme Court has discretionary jurisdiction over an appeal, the parties file Jurisdictional Briefs setting out their arguments for why the Court has/doesn’t have jurisdiction over the case, and why it should/shouldn’t hear the case.  To ask the Supreme Court of the United States to hear a case, the requesting party must file a Petition for Writ of Certiorari.  The party opposing review may, but is not required to, file a Brief in Opposition to Petition for Writ of Certiorari, and if it does, the requesting party may file a Reply in further support of its petition.  Petitions for Review are also filed instead of a notice of appeal in cases in which a party doesn’t have the right to appeal to a Florida District Court of Appeal or federal court of appeals, but may be allowed to appeal at the court’s discretion.