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Appellate Practice

If your case is tried in a trial court and you receive an unsatisfactory result, you may be able to appeal your case to a higher court known as the Court of Appeals.

Our appellate procedure attorneys specialize on advocating cases before the state and federal appellate courts, including the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The objective of the appeal is to change the law by persuading appellate courts to overturn lower court decisions or to expand or change the interpretation of statutory or case law.

If you have experienced an unsatisfactory trial court result, contact one of our Litigation and Appellate members to find out if our team can help you in appellate court.

We have successfully conducted civil appeals to:
  • The Wisconsin Court of Appeals
  • The Wisconsin Supreme Court
  • The Labor & Industry Review Commission
  • The Social Security Appeals Council

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Appellate Law?
After a decision is rendered in a trial by a trial judge or jury, the party who loses has the right to have the decision reviewed by a higher court. Appellate Law consists of the rules and practices by which higher courts review lower court judgments.

What Is an Appeal?
Appeal is the term used to describe the process by which a higher court reviews the decision of a lower (trial) court. The right to appeal an adverse legal decision is granted by the United States Constitution and the Wisconsin Constitution. This appeals system provides a check on the power of a judge or jury. Judges who interpret the law erroneously will have their decisions overturned by a court with authority to do so. Judges know that an appellate court may check their governance over every case.

Some appeals are granted only at the discretion of the appellate court. The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear appeals only at their discretion, because they cannot review every single case decided in the state system.

A party who has had an adverse court decision made against him or her is the party with the right to appeal. (Only under very rare circumstances can a party appeal a favorable decision on the ground that he or she disagrees with the reasoning of the decision.) The party who appeals is known as the appellant. In opposition to the appellant is the respondent, the party who agrees with the outcome of the trial and will argue during the appeal that the judge or jury's decision should be left alone.

How long is the time period between filing the appeal and obtaining a decision from the appellate court?
The process can be lengthy. Transcripts of the original decision must be prepared. All sides prepare and submit briefs and responses to briefs. Once all the information for the appeal is prepared, it is assigned for review and consideration.

What are the decisions that an appellate judge panel can make / what options do they have?
  • The appeals court may AFFIRM the lower court's order (meaning that the decision of the lower court will stand).
  • If the appellate court finds that the decision of the lower court was erroneous, it will either REVERSE or REVERSE AND REMAND the lower court decision.
Note that in some cases, the appellate judges may rule that the mistake was a harmless error – that it did not affect the outcome of the case / would not have made a difference. With an error like this, the original decision still stands.

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