An appellate court is a court having jurisdiction to review decisions of a trial-level or other lower court.
An appellate court does not try factual issues. Instead, it determines only whether there is sufficient evidence to support the findings of the trial court and whether the trial court correctly applied the law.
Both the appellant (the party appealing the lower-court ruling) and the appellee (the party against whom the appeal has been brought) file written briefs with the appellate court. The briefs—which recite the facts of the case, the arguments being raised on appeal, and the applicable law—help the court decide whether the trial court erred in its decision.
The appellate court may also hear oral arguments in the case. During oral argument, each party has ten to fifteen minutes to persuade the appellate court to rule in its favor. If numerous issues have been raised, a party may choose to use most of this time to cover the issues that are most crucial to the decision to be made. The court is free to interrupt an oral argument with questions concerning the facts of the case or the particular areas of law involved. The appellate court, at its discretion, may determine that oral argument is not necessary and may decide the case based only on the trial court record and the written briefs.
In making its decision, the appellate court may affirm the trial court, meaning that it accepts the decision of the lower court, or may reverse it, thus agreeing with the appellant's contention that the trial court's decision was erroneous. It may also modify the decision; in this instance, the court may accept part of the trial court's decision while ruling that other issues were erroneously decided.
The appellate court may affirm the trial court without a written opinion, or it may issue a written opinion stating its reason for the decision. The opinion will discuss the relevant facts, and apply the law to those facts. Appellate court opinions are usually published, thus forming a body of law, known as precedent, that attorneys and judges can consult for guidance in resolving similar legal questions.
The 15th Judicial Circuit's appellate opinions are listed by both date and topic. To view click on the desired year and scroll to the desired month.