Frequently Asked Questions

Common questions about Appellate + Trial Support

How are appeals different from trial court proceedings?

Trial court proceedings involve depositions, hearings, motions, and perhaps ultimately a trial where a decision is made by either a jury or (in some cases) a single judge. Extensive time is spent developing the facts of a case, and ultimately trying to persuade the decision maker to rule in your favor. Often that involves certain skills required to persuade a six person jury to see the case your way.

Appellate proceedings are vastly different. The case at the trial level is usually over, and the record of that case has been created and cannot be changed. An appellate lawyer takes all that occurred below, searches for the important issues and arguments, and presents written briefs to the appellate court. Generally, the Appellant files an Initial Brief, the Appellee files an Answer Brief, and the Appellant then files one final Reply Brief. In most cases, the Court will then order an oral argument in which the lawyers appear before and answer the questions of a three judge panel (or, at the Supreme Court of Florida, before all seven Justices). The oral argument usually ranges between 15 to 30 minutes per side, depending on the Court.

The skills and rules involved in trial court proceedings and appellate court proceedings are vastly different. An appellate oral argument is far different from a closing argument given to a jury at the end of trial. A closing argument is essentially a monologue where the lawyer summarizes the facts and testimony and attempts to persuade the fact finder to rule for his or her client. An appellate oral argument involves extensive, difficult questions being asked by the appellate judges concerning what happened below, and how the law applies to the facts of the case. An appellate lawyer must be able to quickly and effectively respond to any question, no matter how unanticipated, in order to assist the appellate court in resolving the issues.

What types of appeals does Harris Appeals handle?

Harris Appeals handles all types of appeals in both state and federal courts. Actions in the appellate courts generally arise in one of three ways.

First, a party always has the right to appeal a final decision of the trial court. In these cases, the matter is essentially concluded at the trial level, and the case can then be reviewed by the appellate court for reversible error.

Secondly, certain non-final orders may be appealed during the course of trial proceedings, though this category of matters is relatively small. For example, an order granting, modifying or dissolving an injunction is immediately appealable because it does not make sense to wait until the end of the case (which might take years) before the court can review such an order.

The third type of appellate proceedings involves what are known as “original proceedings,” or what is more commonly referred to as extraordinary writs. Sometimes, in a given situation, a party may seek the review of the appellate court through a petition for a specific type of writ given the circumstances involved. 

What makes an appellate lawyer effective?

Appellate law is a specialized field that requires a skill set vastly different from the skills of a trial lawyer. At trial, the audience is a trial judge or a small group of jurors who are concerned with facts, while the appellate lawyer faces an audience of judges focused on the law. 

What does it mean to be Board Certified in Appellate Practice?

The Florida Bar defines Board Certification as “the highest level of evaluation by The Florida Bar of competency and experience within an area of law, and professionalism and ethics in practice.” Seven percent of eligible Florida Bar members (approximately 4,800 lawyers), are Board Certified in a wide range of specialties. Board Certified Florida Bar members are the only Florida attorneys allowed to identify themselves as a “Specialist,” an “Expert,” or use the letters “B.C.S.” (which stands for Board Certified Specialist).

Attorney Andrew Harris is been Board Certified in appellate practice. 

How long do you have to file an appeal after a court decision is announced?

Typically, you have 30 days, but your lawyer will verify this for you.

How can your support help my case achieve better results at trial?

Trial lawyers must be laser-focused on presenting their client’s case during the trial process. However, without creating a record of the key issues during the trial and preserving them for review on appeal, a favorable outcome can be overturned and an unfavorable outcome can be unassailable. Appellate lawyers can work only with the record presented at trial.

Harris Appeals provides trial support services throughout the pretrial and trial processes by preserving errors for appeal, conducting legal research during the trial as issues arise, and preparing and responding to dispositive pretrial and post-trial motions.

Does your firm practice in trial court?

In some circumstances, yes. The firm advises clients and their litigation counsel on complex matters in the trial courts, merging our skills in research and brief-writing with an eye toward preserving issues for appeal.

Additionally, clients with high-stakes litigation matters may ask us to bring our appellate experience to the trial court by attending trials and court hearings to ensure critical arguments are preserved and important objections made. Very few arguments, no matter how clever, can be successfully raised on appeal if not first made in the trial court.

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