Law Offices of John Michael Jensen
John Michael Jensen has litigated a number of civil appeals and has a number of published cases.
The appellate system in California regarding civil cases is designed to review the decisions of trial courts to ensure that legal errors that could have affected the outcome are corrected. Here’s an overview of the law of appeals and the appellate system in California:
Levels of Appellate Courts:
- California Court of Appeal:
- The Court of Appeal is the intermediate appellate court in California.
- There are six appellate districts divided into divisions throughout the state.
- Most appeals from the Superior Courts (the trial courts of California) are heard here.
- California Supreme Court:
- The highest court in California.
- It has discretionary review, meaning it can choose which cases to hear, although it must review all cases where a trial court has imposed a death sentence.
- It reviews decisions from the Court of Appeal if a petition for review is granted.
The Appeal Process:
- Notice of Appeal:
- An aggrieved party in a civil case must file a notice of appeal with the clerk of the trial court. This must occur within a strict time frame, usually 60 days from the date of the service of the notice of entry of judgment.
- Record on Appeal:
- The record on appeal, including the clerk’s transcript (court documents) and reporter’s transcript (trial transcripts), must be designated and prepared.
- Appellate Briefs:
- The appellant (the party appealing) submits an opening brief, arguing how the trial court erred.
- The respondent (the opposing party) then files a responding brief to counter the appellant’s arguments.
- The appellant can file a reply brief to address points in the respondent’s brief.
- Oral Argument:
- After briefs are filed, the court may schedule oral arguments where both parties can present their case and answer questions posed by the justices.
- The appellate court will issue a written opinion, usually within 90 days after the case is submitted for decision.
- The court may affirm the trial court’s decision, reverse it, or remand it with instructions for a new trial or other actions.
- Rehearing and Review:
- A party dissatisfied with the Court of Appeal’s decision may petition for a rehearing in the Court of Appeal.
- A party may also petition for review by the California Supreme Court, although the Supreme Court typically only accepts cases that present significant legal issues.
- After the appeal is decided and if no further review is granted, the Court of Appeal will issue a remittitur, which transfers jurisdiction back to the trial court.
Standards of Review:
The appellate court applies different standards of review depending on the nature of the issue being appealed. For questions of law, the standard is typically de novo (fresh or independent review). For factual findings, the standard is usually substantial evidence (whether the evidence is reasonable, credible, and of solid value). For discretionary decisions, the standard is abuse of discretion.
Limitations on Appellate Review:
- The appellate court generally only reviews issues that were raised in the trial court.
- The court of appeal does not re-evaluate the evidence but reviews the record for legal errors that affected the outcome.
- Certain types of appeals, such as those from small claims or certain family law matters, may have different procedures or timelines.
In summary, the appellate system in California provides a structured process for parties to seek review of trial court decisions. The purpose of an appeal is not to re-try the case but to ensure that the proceedings were fair and the law was correctly applied.
It is imperative to consult with an attorney on any potential appeal or appellate matter.