How Appeals are Decided?

FAQS: How are criminal appeals decided?

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FAQs About Michigan Criminal Appeals

How is the Outcome of an Appeal Decided?

The appellate court reviews a record of the trial court, or administrative agency, ruling to see if any legal errors were made that may have affected a verdict or sentence. The appellant is responsible for timely submission of the record of appeal to the court.

The court does not hear new witness testimony in an appeal, nor does it except new evidence except under strict guidelines and only under certain circumstances. The court of appeals is a supervisory court; its purpose is to review decisions and to assess whether or not there were any legal errors, bias, or conflict of interest that affected the decision.

The court of appeals will most often have the final say in the outcome of a case. Although some appeals are heard by the Michigan Court of Appeals and even by the United States Supreme Court, the majority of cases that are appealed never proceed beyond the Court of Appeals.

In Michigan, appeals are heard by a panel of three judges. This panel is rotated regularly to allow for a more judicially fair process. Some cases are reviewed "en banc." The term "en banc" means "full bench" or that a larger group of judges, (i.e. all of the court of appeals judges for the circuit) will review the appeal.

The process begins with the appellant:

  • Filing a Notice of Appeal
  • Written Brief: The appellant's (defendant's) attorney presents legal arguments in a written brief to convince the panel of judges that an error was made by the trial court and the decision should, therefore, be reviewed and modified or reversed. The appellee (state) has the right to also file a brief trying to convince the same judges that the trial court did not make any errors and the decision should stand.
  • Oral Argument: Some appeals are selected for oral argument and there is no way to predict which cases those will be. When a case is selected, the court asks the appellate attorneys to appear before the court to answer questions and discuss the legal issues involving the case. The lawyers are given only a short time (about 15 minutes) to present their arguments.

The court of appeals decision will:

  • Be the final word in the case; unless
  • The court sends the case back (remands) to the trial court for additional proceedings; or
  • The parties ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

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