Appellate Practice

Litigating a case, or being involved in a government proceeding, can take many twists and turns. Unfortunately, each twist usually means more time consumed and more money taken out of your pocket. You might think the decision handed down by a trial court or government agency means resolution for your problem, or the end to a long, difficult journey. Too often, this “conclusion” is simply the start of round 2. Whether the issues being addressed impact your personal life or the life of your business, you’ll want the help of a legal team experienced in the appellate system. Whether your livelihood is hanging in the balance due to a court ruling, you’re considering appealing a decision that didn’t go your way, or you’re bracing for the opposition’s appeal after a favorable ruling, our attorneys have the experience necessary to give you an advantage.

Common Appeals

Given how many cases are filed, relatively few end up being appealed. To justify the time and expense of an appeal, the outcome must be significant to the parties. Examples include:
  • The custody of a child
  • Significantly increased costs to a business
  • Proper compensation for a personal injury
  • The denial of a significant insurance coverage claim
  • The unlawful loss of a job
  • A denial of property rights
  • Responsibility for an environmental clean-up
An order, judgment or finding can be appealed for several reasons. There must be an error that adversely impacts the outcome of the case and the interests of the appealing party. There can be any number of grounds for an appeal, including:
  • Legally insufficient evidence
  • Severely mistaken findings of fact
  • Use of the wrong legal standard
  • Misunderstanding or misapplying the applicable legal standards
  • Procedural errors
  • Conflict of interest by the agency or judge
  • Constitutional violations
  • Other legal grounds depending on the facts and circumstances of each case
There are many types of appeals but generally, they fall into four categories.
I. Appeal of an Administrative Body’s Decision

The finding of a government board or agency can be appealed under certain circumstances.
If a state agency is involved, there may be a hearing by an administrative law judge (ALJ) with the Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) to determine the matter. After a hearing, the ALJ will write a decision, either a Recommended or Final Order, which is provided to the agency proposing the action and the parties in the case.
The agency reviews the Recommended Order and issues a final decision, which normally adopts the Judge's factual findings. Within a limited time, a party who is adversely affected by final agency action may take an appeal to a District Court of Appeals. If the party is dissatisfied with that outcome, it can seek an appeal with the state Supreme Court.
Decisions by local government agencies can also be appealed to a federal District Court of Appeals. If a local or state agency’s decision arguably conflicts with federal law or the U.S. Constitution, legal action could be filed in federal court.
II. State Court Appeals
With some exceptions, there must be a final decision in a state court in order for there to be an appeal to the applicable District Court of Appeals. There must have been an error of fact or law that impacted the decision and is against the interests of the appealing party. The Court of Appeals decision is normally the final say in a case.  A party can ask the state Supreme Court to overturn the decision, but there is no right to such an appeal.
III. Writ of Certiorari
This is a method developed by courts over the years and is not defined by the Florida Constitution or by statute. It’s a special method that requests an upper court to direct a lower court to send up the record of a pending case so that it can “be informed of” events below and determine if the proceedings are proper.
The writ is a safety net for parties in litigation.  It gives an upper court the ability to reach down and halt a miscarriage of justice if there is no other remedy. To be successful, the petitioner must show the trial court departed from the essential requirements of the law, this departure caused a material injury that will affect the remainder of the proceedings below and the departure cannot be corrected through any other means.

IV. Federal Court of Appeals

Federal courts are divided among District Courts (where trials take place, Boca Raton is covered by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida), Circuit Courts of Appeals (there are twelve circuits, Florida federal courts are in the eleventh circuit).  The Circuit Court of Appeals handles appeals from the District Courts, which may ultimately end up in the Supreme Court of the United States. District courts may handle administrative appeals from federal agencies and legal action relating to local and state government actions that allegedly violate federal law or the U.S. Constitution.

Get the Advice You Need Before Pursuing an Appeal

Most lawyers in Florida do not provide appellate services and have never handled an appeal themselves. Our attorneys have handled many appeals in many areas of state and federal law. Our attorneys are as educated, skilled and experienced as attorneys working on appeals for much larger law firms. Overturning a court or final agency decision is not an easy matter. The rules of appellate procedure are only the starting point and are available at the touch of a keyboard.  What’s hard-earned is the knowledge and expertise from years of litigating and appealing court and agency decisions.  What comes with experience is the ability to,
  • Narrow down the important issues in a case.
  • Point out possible errors in fact and law.
  • Come up with arguments an appellate court will focus on and convince the court to see things the client’s way.
We can discuss your goals, how they’ve been impacted by the court or agency, how the appellate system works and how it could protect your rights. We can go over the obstacles you face and how they can be overcome. Whatever the case or situation, you will get our honest, educated and experienced opinion and advice. Our pursuit of an appeal will be efficient, effective and handled by an attorney who knows how to get results. Our clients get the personal service of a smaller law firm without paying the high fees of a larger one.

If, despite all the time, energy and resources you’ve spent pursuing a case to a decision, you face the prospect of an appeal, contact us today at 1-800-863-9560.

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