Appellate Litigation

A trial court or an administrative body can make errors at times. When an error results in injustice or causes irreparable harm, steps can be taken to correct it. Appellate courts exist to correct such mistakes, and when necessary, to develop or correct the law.

Bonsignore has successfully handled significant appeals in both the federal United States Courts of Appeals and state courts, including the Appeals and Supreme Courts. In pursuing appeals for our clients, we have submitted briefing and argued on behalf of appellants as well as appellees. The experience of being on both sides gives us a well-rounded perspective. We are intimately familiar with the specific demands of appellate practice and always put forth the effort to achieve the exceptional appellate advocacy needed to succeed.

Our extensive experience in litigation and appeals allows Bonsignore lawyers to identify the specific issues that will best serve as the basis for your successful appeal. After we thoroughly analyze your case and the related law, we will prepare and make the most compelling arguments available. Our goal is to win every time, and we know what it takes to win an appeal.


Bonsignore: A Cutting Edge Law Firm
Having the ability to challenge a court’s decision is integral to ensuring a fair and impartial justice system. Court findings that are based on an improper consideration of the facts, improper application of law, bias, or undue influence are appropriate cases for appeal.

The Bonsignore Appellate Team protects our clients’ rights and is prepared to deal with any roadblocks that may arise. Sometimes the legal issues under consideration may be novel or directly intersect with developing public policy. When such roadblocks appear, creative thinking and an ability to put forward persuasive new arguments is required. We are willing and able to work with our clients to develop, shape or correct a body of law when necessary. If yours is a case where it is not in your best interests to pursue an appeal, we will explain to you in plain, understandable language why we reached that conclusion. Bonsignore lawyers are ready to help you. We will design an effective strategy that advances your specific best interests.

Bonsignore’s Appellate Process
There are many differences between the representation of a client’s cause at the trial and the appellate court level. In addition to a sharp and complete focus on narrow issues of law and specific facts, appeals courts demand that a clear and supported logical analysis be applied to each legal question. Appellate judges often aggressively challenge the appellate lawyer to defend their point of view in an effort to fully test points. The grounds for a successful appeal are always narrow.

After a thorough examination and analysis of the evidence in the record for your case, the Bonsignore Appellate Team will research and make use of the most recent case law available. We will also research and make use of other cases that have served in the development of the related law and cases that provide helpful insights and any related legislative history.

After the Bonsignore Appellate Team has a firm command of your record and case precedent, we will focus our efforts on identifying the best arguments to present to the appeals court. We will then work to refine those arguments into a compelling and well-written brief that will ultimately be submitted to the court. Part of writing a winning brief is anticipating an opponent’s arguments. Bonsignore appellate lawyers work hard to structure arguments in a way that will allow them to use their opponent’s arguments against them. They anticipate and view each adverse argument as an opportunity to persuade. Nevertheless, hoisting an opponent on his or her own “petard” is not always possible. Appellate arguments are more often won by distinguishing cases that seem to cut against our clients’ positions. That is why a precise understanding of the law’s construction, history, and purpose as well as the record is essential.

Prior to oral argument before the court, our appellate team will hold multiple mock appellate arguments to prepare. We will also read and summarize every case cited in the parties’ briefs. Often we hire retired judges to work through the cases with us. We work hard to ensure the most effective argument is put forward. During an appellate argument, the appellate lawyer must argue to multiple judges at the same time. Appellate judges require appellate lawyers to focus only on points that are essential to deciding the legal issues. They are not moved by emotion or susceptible to an attorney’s spin on the facts. Getting to the point where an appellate argument is ready is a process. The Bonsignore Appellate Team understands the dynamics of appellate persuasion and focuses all its efforts on what is necessary to win.

What to Expect on Appeal
Courts exclusively devoted to hearing appeals exist at both the state and national level. While all United States appeals courts operate under the same set of general procedural federal appellate rules, state appeal courts operate under their own, state-specific appellate rules. Federal appeals courts also have individual local rules that govern practice before them.

Appellate courts often have discretion whether to accept a case for review. While most jurisdictions have rules that require certain appeals to be reviewed, generally more appeals are filed than are actually accepted for review and written opinion. The only way to know for sure what a specific appellate process entails is to consult the local rules. A review of the case-specific facts by skilled appellate lawyer is needed in every case.

The first focus of an appeals court is whether the appeal was timely and properly filed. The timely filing of an appeal is a matter to take seriously, and it is important not to procrastinate. If an attorney already represents you, you should immediately discuss your options for an appeal with your trial attorney. The strict deadlines on filing an appeal must be followed for you to preserve your right to appeal. After determining timeliness, an appeals court will next determine whether it has jurisdiction, or the authority to hear the appeal. Once these pre-requisites for review are satisfied, the appeal will proceed.

Appeals occur when a party involved in a dispute claims an error was made in the trial court’s (or administrative body’s) decision or process. The appellant is the party that requests the appeal, and the appellee is the party who is responds. In every case, an appeals court must determine what their standard of review is. The standard of review is the amount of deference the appeals court will give to the trial court’s decision on appeal. The strength of an issue and the prospect for winning often depends on this standard of review. The standard of review depends upon a number of factors, and the review of case-specific facts by skilled appellate lawyer is needed in every case.

Appeals courts do not make findings of fact. The focus of an appeal is on how the lower court applied the law to a given set of facts that were before it. Appeals courts do not swear in witnesses or admit or disallow evidence. In fact, appeals courts rarely revisit the facts of a case. Facts that do not appear in the record nearly always may not be raised on appeal. Where an appeals court determines it needs more facts to render an opinion, it will remand the case, or send it back to the trial court. Rather than make factual findings, appeals courts evaluate whether the trial court (or administrative body) made mistakes in interpreting the law to the facts presented or in applying legal procedure.

Generally, the standard of review an appeals court will apply depends on the issue on appeal – is it a question of law, or is it fact driven or does it involve mixed questions of law or fact.

A “de novo” standard of review is usually applied to issues of law. A “de novo” standard of review means that the appellate court has the authority to act as if it were considering the question for the first time without regard for the trial court’s determination. Appeals revolving around questions of fact require special analysis because a great many different standards of review apply. For example, abuse of discretion and clear error are two common standards applied to a trial court’s factual findings. The factual findings of an administrative body are often held to an arbitrary and capricious standard of review. Again, the standard of review is dependent on a number of factors, and the review of case-specific facts by skilled appellate lawyer is needed in every case.

Appellate litigation is frequently costly and time-consuming. If you are trying to decide whether to appeal, we can help you make that decision. If you have already decided to appeal, we can work directly with you or with your trial attorney to handle your appeal from start to finish.

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