Legal English – “Appellate”

“Appellate” (Pronunciation: uh-PEHL-it; Origin: Latin) is an adjective referring to courts or entities with the power to review the decisions of other courts or entities. “Appellate” can be used to describe the entity itself, documents filed with the entity, procedural rules governing the entity and more.

Here are some example sentences that use the word:

  • “That would be true if we were in a District Court, but the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure govern these proceedings.  You’re going to need to become more familiar with them if you want to effectively represent your client in this court.”
  • “The court has ordered that appellate briefs must be submitted by this Friday.  We’re going to need to pull in a few more associates if we’re going to research and analyze these issues in time.”
  • “She’s been an appellate practitioner for over 20 years, and is one of the more well-regarded attorneys who is a member of the appellate bar.  You’re in good hands.”

U.S. courts are typically divided into three main levels: trial court, appellate court and Supreme Court. Trial courts generally have jurisdiction over all cases from the moment a complaint is filed. Appellate courts then review the decisions of the trial court in the event a party files an appeal. Finally, a Supreme Court is typically tasked with choosing the most meaningful appeals of decisions of the appellate court and delivering definitive opinions on important points of law.

Appeals to an appellate court are generally a matter of right. That is, a party to an action may file an appeal and is generally entitled to have it heard. Appellate courts mainly review conclusions regarding points of law, as opposed to findings of fact.  Appeals to a Supreme Court sitting above an appellate court, however, are generally discretionary matters under the control of the Supreme Court. Different standards often apply to appellate proceedings and decisions, and attorneys must be aware that an appellate court is an arena apart from the trial courts to which they may have become accustomed.