If you hear someone throw around the term "appeal letter" in regards to a court judgment, chances are they're actually referring to a Notice of Appeal – no shame in some confusion, though, as the rabbit hole of legalise is long, dark and winding, especially when it comes to potentially overturning a court's decision. This notice of appeal is the very first step to getting the appeal process – applying to a higher court for the reversal of the decision made by a lower court – off the ground.
What is a Circuit Court?
In traditional terms, a circuit court is a court that employs judges as they travel across jurisdictions to gain a broader understanding of the law of the land. It may also refer to a court that holds trials for various jurisdictions in the same rotation. In the modern American legal system, though, the term has evolved a bit more.
In the United States federal court system, 13 appellate courts – or courts that deal with appeals – sit below the United States Supreme Court. These are known as the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Among 94 federal judicial districts, 12 regional circuits each feature their own court of appeals. These federal courts of appeals are also known as circuit courts in the U.S. As appellate courts, circuit courts don't hold their own trials; they only hear appeals for cases decided by lower courts.
What's a Notice of Appeal?
Requesting to have a higher court reverse a lower court's judgment begins with the court appeal letter known as a Notice of Appeal.
If the court order is eligible for appeal, you can file a Notice of Appeal as long as it's' within the time limits for said appeal (usually within 20 to 30 days of when the judgment was entered, but sometimes up to 120 days depending on the nature of the trial). These are forms that are available online. The form gives the opposing party and the circuit court a heads up that you are appealing the case. It usually includes some language to ensure that the appeal has not been taken up for the purpose of delaying collection on the judgment.
Read More: How to Fill Out a Notice of Appeal Form
How Do I Write a Notice of Appeal?
While Notice of Appeal forms vary county per county, the blank form letter commonly includes spaces for your basic contact info, as well as information about the case, such as a case number and the names of the plaintiff and defendant. The meat of the document is a blank paragraph that you must fill in, briefly stating the reasoning behind your appeal.
As you craft this crucial section, keep in mind that appealing doesn't give your trial a do-over – you won't be able to introduce any new evidence to the proceedings; the judge at the circuit court will simply re-examine what has already been submitted. Once this section has been taken care of, sign and date the Notice of Appeal form.
Writing isn't the end of filing a Notice of Appeal, either – you'll also have to pay a filing fee, typically in the $100 ballpark, to the court clerk. Once that's done, mail a clerk-notarized copy of the Notice to the opposing party's attorney. The Notice must be legally served by mail or in-person, so make sure your server preps a Proof of Service document and provides you with a copy of that document upon delivery of the Notice.
After the Notice is Filed
Once you file the Notice of Appeal, watch your mailbox carefully. The court will notify you that you must file a legal brief within a certain time period; if you don't, you'll lose your chance to explain why your appeal should be granted. You may also get notified of oral argument. This means you'll have to appear at the court and argue your appeal in front of the panel of judges. Not every appeal will have oral argument scheduled, but be aware that it could happen.
Writing a notice of appeal usually boils down to filling out a short, blank court form. You'll then have to file an appellate brief after the court sets a schedule.
- United States Courts: Court Role and Structure
- Civil Law Self-Help Center: Appealing the Case
- The United States Department of Justice: Justice Manual: 22. Notice of Appeal Form
- USLegal: Notice of Appeal Law and Legal Definition
- California Courts: Filing the Notice of Appeal
- Civil Law Self-Help Center: Notice of Appeal Sample
As a freelance writer and small business owner with a decade of experience, Dan has contributed legal- and finance-oriented content to diverse sources including Chron, Fortune, Zacks.com, Motley Fool and MSN Money, among others.