Legal Information

After a Decision is Issued

Updated: 
September 21, 2021

What are some important words and phrases that I need to know as I start the appeals process?

Below we give the definitions to some key words and phrases that you will need to understand if you begin the appeals process. As you read the rest of this section, you may want to refer back to this question if you come across an unfamiliar word.

Appeal: The process of asking a higher court to review a trial court decision for possible mistakes.

Appellant: The party (litigant) who files an appeal seeking to reverse (overturn) the trial court’s decision.

Appellee: The party (litigant) who won in the trial court, also known as the lower court, and will be defending that decision in the appellate court.

Brief: Document filed in the appellate court that states the litigant’s legal reasons (arguments) for why the appeal should be granted or not granted. The appellant is allowed to file two briefs, the appellee only files one:

  • First, the appellant files an opening brief arguing that the trial court made mistakes that the appeals court should correct;
  • Second, the appellee files a brief responding to the appellant’s arguments and explaining why the trial court’s decision was correct and should be kept (“affirmed”) by the appeals court; and
  • Third, the appellant can file a “reply” brief that responds to the counter-arguments in appellee’s brief.

Case law: Law formed by judges’ decisions in other court cases in your state. Generally, case law that comes from a court that is higher than your appellate court is called “precedent” and the judges in your appellate court are supposed to follow those rulings when making their decision related to similar facts. In larger states with multiple appellate courts, it’s possible that case law will come from other courts that are not above your court – in this case, it’s optional if the judges want to follow it or not but it could help to influence their decision.

Filing Fee: Fee an appellant must pay to the appeals court when filing an appeal, typically between $100-$250.

Notice of Appeal: The document filed by the appellant to start the appeals process.

Record: All the documents contained in the trial court’s file connected to the litigation plus the written transcripts and trial exhibits.

Remand: The most common outcome of an appeal. It’s when appeals court agrees that the trial court made an error and sends the case back to the trial court to re-try the case with guidance on what to do differently to avoid making a similar appealable error.

Stay: A pause that prevents the lower court’s order from going into effect until the appeal is decided.

Transcript: The written recording of the trial ,often prepared by the court reporter.

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