Appeals are perceived as one of the most difficult endeavors in litigation. Perhaps you just won a jury verdict in your favor, and now the other side is appealing. Perhaps you just lost at trial, and now you must convince an appellate court to “undo” your loss. Or maybe you are in the midst of on-going litigation, and the trial court rules on an issue that prompts an immediate appeal (called an “interlocutory” appeal). If you find yourself in one of these circumstances, you are going to need a lawyer who knows what it takes to succeed on appeal.
Why appeals are different from trials:
Litigating in an appellate court is far different from litigating in a trial court. In most circumstances, the appellate court’s only job is to determine whether the trial judge committed “reversible error.” This means that you will not get to reargue the facts and “merits” of your case on appeal. Instead, the appellate court will be looking to see whether there is any legal basis to support what the trial court did. This is called the “standard of review.” Because the standard of review favors the party that won in the trial court, most of the time whoever won in the trial court has the best chance on appeal. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Judges and juries sometimes make mistakes, and sometimes the law is unclear on a particular point. These are the reasons appeals occur.
So when you have a case that has been appealed, you need an appellate lawyer that can effectively demonstrate that the trial court made an error, and that the error should be reversed. Or that there was no error, and, therefore, the trial court should be upheld. This is a lot harder to do than you might think. In most appellate courts, you are permitted to write a brief of about 35 pages to explain why the judge’s ruling was right or wrong. The trial court judge may have based his/her ruling on thousands of pages documents, or on days of testimony from witnesses. To win an appeal, an appellate lawyer has to sort through all of this information, pick out what is most important, and present your information and arguments to the appellate court in a way that is compelling. After all, this is the second court that will have reviewed and decided upon the evidence and arguments presented by lawyers and witnesses.
There is another important consideration and that is actually getting your case heard by the appellate court. One of the most difficult aspects of an appeal is called “perfecting the appeal.” The rules in appellate courts are notoriously finicky. The wrong word in the wrong place, a missed step in the appellate process, the wrong size type in your appellate brief (believe it or not), or one page missing from a ten-thousand page record, could result in the dismissal of the appeal, or an appeal hobbled so severely that it cannot be rescued.
Why Lewis & Roberts should handle your appeal:
Since the Firm’s inception in 1997, attorneys at Lewis & Roberts have prosecuted appeals in nearly every type of court in the United States. Our attorneys have lead appeals in both state and federal courts. When we handle an appeal, we pride ourselves on writing clearly and persuasively, and presenting the law and the facts in a credible, logical, and straightforward way. While we may not win every appeal (no law firm does), our Firm’s experience working on appeals, and the strength of our writing, distinguish our appellate practice.
Examples of appeals prosecuted by the attorneys at Lewis & Roberts:
- Roane-Barker v. Southeastern Hospital Supply Corp., 99 N.C. App. 30, 392 S.E.2d 663 (1990)
- Rodger v. Electronic Data Systems Corporation, 155 F.R.D. 537 (E.D.N.C. 1994)
- Rodger v. Electronic Data Systems Corporation, 160 F.R.D. 532 (E.D.N.C. 1995)
- Sunset Beach Development v. AMEC. Inc., et al., 2009 WL 910166 (N.C. App. 2009)
- Thomas v. McLaurin Parking, 640 S.E.2d 779 (N.C. App. 2007)
- Williams v. Law Companies Group, Inc., 645 S.E. 2d 725 (N.C. App. 2008)
- Ryan v. University of North Carolina Hospital, 128 N.C. App. 300, 494 S.E.2d 789 (1998)
- Gaunt v. Pittaway, 135 N.C. App. 442, 520 S.E.2d (1999)
- Bailey v. State, 353 N.C. 142, 540 S.E.2d 313 (2000)
- Wilkerson v. Norfolk Southern, 151 N.C. App. 332, 566 S.E.2d 104 (2002)
- Coffman v. Roberson, 153 N.C. App. 618, 571 S.E.2d 255 (2002)
- Burgess v. Campbell, 182 N.C. App. 480, 642 S.E.2d 478 (2007)
Because Lewis & Roberts accepts clients on a contingent fee basis, clients seeking representation on an appeal should ask us to discuss alternative billing arrangements. If your case is appropriate for representation on a contingent fee basis, you will owe no attorneys' fee for the litigation unless and until there is a monetary settlement or court verdict in your favor. Justice should not depend on whether you are wealthier than the person or entity that harmed you.