Utah Appellate Attorneys
Every job needs the right tool. You may have had an excellent trial lawyer and now you are defending your verdict on appeal or appealing a mistake made by the judge. It is time to find an excellent appellate attorney in Utah. Look no further. Deborah Bulkeley is a top-notch appellate attorney. She has handled dozens of appeals and previously worked at the Criminal Appeals Division of the Utah Attorney General’s Office. Before that, she served a judicial clerkship with the Utah Court of Appeals. Suffice it to say, she knows what she’s doing.
The appeal process starts at trial. Any issue not properly preserved will likely not be heard by the appellate court. If you are the appellant, your appellate attorney will argue that the trial court made an error that caused you to loose your case (i.e. admitted evidence that should have been excluded) or, if you are the appellee, your appellant attorney will argue that no error was made by the trial court and the final judgment should stand.
Appellate procedures are vastly different from trial procedures. First, most appeals are decided without ever having oral argument. The appellate judges assigned to your case will read the briefs submitted by each party. Ultimately, the appellate court will decide whether or not a hearing is necessary. Briefing format must adhere strictly to the rules and deadlines outlined by the Court. All to often a matter is delayed or lost on appeal because of a parties failure to follow the proper procedure.
During the appeal process, we remain entirely accessible to our clients. We understand that our clients are often frustrated and tired with the legal process after going through a long trial. Appeals can be expensive and generally take months to resolve. Hiring us to handle you appeal allows for peace of mind knowing that someone with experience will efficiently move your case forward.
Preserving Errors for Appeal
Just as you would only eat fruit that has been properly preserved or fresh enough that it has not gone rotten, you generally would not (and cannot) appeal a mistake by the trial court that has not been preserved. Issue preservation is one of the most important aspects of an appeal. To preserve an issue for appeal, it needs to be raised to the trial court in a manner sufficient for the trial court to rule on it. No matter how strong you think your case may be, with few exceptions, an appellate court won’t decide the merits of an issue that is not preserved. This means that the arguments and objections made at trial can make or break an appeal. If an issue wasn’t properly preserved, you may need a post-trial motion to do so. Or, an exception to the preservation rule, such as plain error, may apply. On the other hand, if you are defending a favorable judgment, you need to be able to identify which issues are preserved and make preservation part of your appellate arguments.
Standard of Review
When looking for appellate issues, the standard of review is a key consideration. Appellate courts generally give deference to a trial court’s (or jury’s) fact findings, and no discretion to a trial court’s legal rulings. It’s important to know what issues fall into each category (some fall into both), and understand how the standard of review impacts an argument. For example, in Utah, appellants challenging a fact-finding to marshal evidence that supports the finding and then explain why the finding was an abuse of discretion. However, the appellate court takes a fresh look at legal questions, such as whether a piece of evidence was properly excluded, or whether a jury instruction properly stated the law. So in those types of challenges, the trial court’s decision is not as important to how the appellate court evaluates the case.
An appellate brief is written to a different audience than a trial court. At trial you are dealing with a fact finder such as a jury or a single judge. An appellate brief is written a panel of highly sophisticated judges. It must be written in a way that frames the issues and lays out the facts and the law in a way that is persuasive. A persuasive brief needs to present the facts to the appellate panel in a way that makes sense, and the argument in a way that helps the court understand why it should rule in your favor. Appellate arguments are often much more focused and nuanced than arguments made in the trial court. Virtually every argument on appeal must be backed up by sufficient authority, or they risk being dismissed as inadequate.