One of the best and worst features of the law is that cases are heard by judges who are, ultimately, human. Like all human beings, sometimes judges get it wrong. When your case has ended up with the wrong result, you may not know what to do – but you do have an option. You can pursue an appeal.
An appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court or Court of Appeals is not like a trial – there are no witnesses, no cross-examinations, no evidence shown to the court outside of what was presented at trial. Instead, an appeal involves both sides preparing briefs to support their position to the appellate court, and, if allowed by the appellate court, oral arguments of attorneys to support their position. But again, these oral arguments are not like the oral arguments an attorney might make at a trial – usually each side only gets 15 minutes to present their case, and it is just the attorney talking, no witnesses or evidence. That said, despite oral arguments only lasting 15 minutes per side, the attorneys need to engage in extensive and substantial preparation before-hand, because judges on the appellate panel will routinely pepper the attorneys with questions that may or may not cover topics the attorneys had planned to discuss – meaning for a 15 minute oral argument, it is not unusual for an attorney to have several hours’ worth of potential arguments, statements, and answers prepared, along with possibly having gone through one or even several practice argument sessions with colleagues.
Moreover, appellate litigation has a whole array of rules which are completely distinct from the rules in the trial court and the violation of these rules can result in dismissal of your appeal. This means that just because an attorney is a good trial attorney does not mean they will be a good appellate attorney.
If you are looking to challenge a Circuit Court ruling, or are defending against an appeal from a victory at the Circuit Court, even if you are happy with your trial attorney, you may want to consider another attorney to handle your appeal. In addition to the differences between a trial and an appeal, it can often be useful to get a fresh set of eyes on your case.
Our firm has extensive experience handling appellate litigation representing both appellants and appellees. We know the rules of the appellate courts, how to prepare effective briefs and oral arguments, and how best to present your case to a panel of judges who will never get a chance to meet you. Perhaps most importantly of all, however – we will be honest with you. Appeals are time-intensive and at times costly – if we don’t think your case is strong, or we don’t think your case is worth the cost of pursuing, we will tell you, and make sure you are armed with all the facts before you decide to proceed.
Additionally, our firm handles appeals in almost all areas of civil litigation – even if we do not handle that type of case at the trial court level.
Please note that in the Spring, 2021 session of the Virginia General Assembly, a law was enacted expanding both the size and jurisdiction of the Virginia Court of Appeals effective January 1, 2022. Attorneys at The Baldwin Law Firm have been following this change in law since it was first proposed, and are well equipped and ready to adapt the firm’s appellate practice to the new law and procedures of the Court of Appeals. In fact, our appellate litigator was one of the instructors for other attorneys at the Fairfax Bar Association’s continuing legal education course about the changes to the Court of Appeals.