Litigation is a serious undertaking, whether you bring the case as the plaintiff or you are defending yourself or your company. The decision to appeal the outcome of a Florida county or circuit court to a higher court is just as serious. Appeals require an investment of time and money, as well as a strong conviction in your legal position. If you or the other side decides to appeal, you may have questions about what to expect from the process.
Filing the appeal
As the appellant (or the person bringing the appeal), your first step is filing the notice of appeal, along with the filing fee. For almost all appeals, you have 30 days to file after the date of the order you are appealing. This notice needs to tell the Court of Appeal the ruling at issue and the authority to appeal. Failure to file the notice on time is jurisdictional and will prevent the appellate court from reviewing your case. You also must file directions to the lower court clerk to prepare the record and to any court reporter service to prepare a transcript of any relevant proceedings and send everything to the appellate court.
Making your argument
With appeals, the parties may make their argument in two steps. First, you file a written brief laying out all of your legal arguments, subject to detailed rules concerning how the brief must be written and organized. The appellant files their brief first, followed by an answer brief from the other side (the appellee) containing their own arguments and responding to the appellant’s brief. Finally, the appellant may file a short reply brief to the answer brief.
The second step is the oral argument. You must request oral arguments. If the court decides to hear oral arguments in your case, they will set a date to present your case. Your attorney will have a set amount of time to give your argument (typically 20 minutes), as well as take questions from the panel of judges.
Receiving the decision
The court will make a decision and issue an opinion. The opinion explains the court’s decision to the lower court and directs what action, if any, the lower court must take. For example, the appellate court might decide there needs to be a new trial held in the lower court. It may also decide that everything that happened at the lower court was correct and the case can conclude. Your attorney will explain the full impact of the court’s decision on your case.