Educating Clients About Appeals

New Jersey Appellate Lawyer

Educating Clients About AppealsOur appellate practice is grounded in our strong belief that regardless of the case or the issues it raises, every appellate client must understand how the appellate process works.

Generally speaking, every citizen should understand how our legal system functions, since it affects so many of our basic rights. It almost goes without saying that the reality of our system differs dramatically from what is depicted on television or in the movies, or described in a novel. Further, although many of us may encounter a trial court at some point in our lives (as, perhaps, a litigant or juror), the odds are that most people who are not attorneys or judges will never see the inside of an appellate courtroom.

The Differences Between Trial and Appellate Courts

Trial courts find the facts of a case by hearing witness testimony and reviewing other types of evidence. Everything that happens at a trial becomes part of the record. An appeal is based on the content of the record created at trial. Appellate courts do not hear testimony of witnesses, and typically do not consider new evidence. The trial attorney must therefore "make the record" at trial. A deficient trial record can lead to a poor result on appeal.

Further, no two cases are alike. Different cases arise from different sets of facts, and every client is unique. As such, two cases may appear similar in certain respects, but then play out very differently at trial. The same is true at the appellate level. A New Jersey appellate attorney must always remain sensitive to those facts and issues that distinguish their client from every other appellant, and their client's case from every other appellate matter, regardless of any perceived similarities that may exist. At the same time, appellants should not assume that an appeal will conclude with a particular result simply because a different appeal that appeared to be similar to theirs ended in a certain way.

The Appellate Process - A Thumbnail Sketch

An appeal is commenced by filing a simple set of papers with an appellate court within the timeframe set by the applicable court rules. The defendant is then given time to obtain the transcripts of the trial court proceedings. After the transcripts are available, the clerk of the court will set a briefing schedule. The appellant's brief is filed first, and is accompanied by an "appendix" that includes important documents generated in connection with the trial that the appellate court will need to review the issues raised on appeal. The State (in New Jersey) or the Government (in the Federal system) then files it's responding brief. The defendant then files a final brief that replies to the arguments raised in the responding brief. This is all of the printed material filed in connection with the appeal.

After the briefs and appendix are on file, the attorneys representing the parties may appear before the appellate court to argue the appeal. Here, the attorneys present their positions and respond to questions from the panel of appellate judges. The panel will then consider everything presented in the papers and at oral argument, and render a decision. The entire process can take up to a year or longer to complete.

Finally, criminal appeals do not necessarily result in a dismissal of the charges or the case. If the appeal is successful, the appellate court will almost invariably return the case to the trial court for further action, which can include a new trial or a re-sentencing.

The foregoing topics are discussed in greater detail on the subsequent pages. Please read them. Even if you do not retain us for your appeal, it is our hope that you will have a better understanding of the mechanics of criminal appeals.

We are criminal appellate attorneys in New Jersey representing defendants in the state and federal appeals courts in New Jersey. If you are seeking to appeal a criminal conviction from the New Jersey Superior Court, or from the United States District Court in New Jersey, contact us online or call us toll free at 800-361-6554 today to discuss your criminal appeal.

Client Reviews
"I hired Mr. Friedman to represent my son in a criminal matter that could have landed him in jail. Nobody in our family had ever been involved with the criminal justice system before, so this was all very new to us. He was very patient, answered all of our questions, and made sure we understood everything each step of the way. By the time the case was over, my son had a reduced charge for which he only had to pay some fines." Anonymous
"Mr. Friedman represented me when I was one of several students caught with drugs in a college dorm room. I was set to graduate at the end of the semester, and thought this case would ruin my life. He got my charges dismissed, and the record expunged. This lawyer was a total lifesaver!" Anonymous
"Our daughter has mental health issues. She got into a scuffle with the police and was charged with assaulting an officer. Our attorney, Jim Friedman, was able to show the prosecutor and Judge that the real problem here was her mental stability. She was placed on probation and avoided jail time. Most other lawyers we spoke to refused to take this case, but Jim Friedman took it and got us a great result. Thank you Mr. Friedman!" Anonymous
"I had federal criminal charges and felt totally lost. I was one of who knows how many defendants in this case, and I read on the Internet that almost everyone in federal court end up with a prison sentence, so I was really scared. My first lawyer, who told me that I would probably spend at least some time in prison, barely gave me the time of day after I paid him. Then I hired Jim Friedman to represent me. He stayed with me throughout the entire process. He was always available to answer my questions, and never let me lose hope. He negotiated aggressively with the federal prosecutor and I ended up with a short term of probation. I knew I would get convicted of something, but this lawyer kept me out of jail." Anonymous
"The only part of my trial that was better than watching Mr. Friedman question the witnesses was when the jury came out and said “not guilty” over and over again. You have to see this lawyer in court!" Anonymous