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How To Win an Appeal: 7 Best Practices from the Pros

Losing your court case can be incredibly discouraging, especially if you have a lot riding on the outcome. The good news, however, is that you may be able to appeal the ruling and seek a more favorable result in an appellate court.

With an appeal, you are asking a higher court to review your case and, hopefully, reverse the earlier decision. While no outcome is guaranteed, certain strategies can improve your chances of success the second time around. This article outlines how to win an appeal using seven best practices—including Record Press.

What affects the success of an appeal most?

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At Record Press, we often act as appellate consultants; thus, we know what affects the success of an appeal more often than not. It doesn’t matter whether you are trying to determine how to win an appeal in a family court or how to win a property tax appeal: three key factors can significantly influence its success. They are as follows:

  • The Strength of the Argument: If the initial case was weak or the law was not on your side, chances of success are low. Strong, clear arguments based on solid evidence can make a fundamental difference in how your appellate brief is received by the court.
  • Legal Representation: Having skilled lawyers is an absolute must. Experienced attorneys know how to present a strong case, highlight errors in the original trial, and argue persuasively before higher courts.
  • Clear Appeal Grounds: Your reasons for the appeal, such as procedural errors or misinterpretation of law during the original trial, need to be legally sound. Courts look for clear mistakes that could have changed the trial’s outcome.

If you’ve covered all three bases, your case stands a good chance of achieving a different result upon appeal. Now, let’s take a closer look at recommended practices for preparing, formatting, and presenting your brief, which is the court’s introduction to your case.

7 best practices to increase your chances of winning an appeal

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Certain practices can be a game changer in the appeals process. From careful document preparation to understanding the court’s expectations, the strategies below can provide your appeal with the edge it needs. If you’re trying to determine how to win an appeal, these steps can get you started.

Understand the importance of the standard of review

For many appeals, success hinges on identifying and arguing the correct standard of review from the outset. This means that before filing a notice of appeal, you should determine the most advantageous standard for your case.

Most appellate reversals happen on points of law reviewed under a de novo standard. This means the appellate court reviews the matter from scratch and gives no deference to the trial court’s decision. Other standards include the following:

  • “Clearly erroneous” 
  • “Abuse of discretion”
  • “Contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence”

Although optional, these standards respect the trial court’s judgment, making it harder to win an appeal. In other words, if the trial court’s actions are deemed reasonable, they are unlikely to be overturned.

It’s also important to recognize that if multiple issues are involved, an appeal might require multiple standards of review. If you can’t establish a favorable standard of review for your entire case, you may be able to apply one for specific matters.

Appeal briefs are the first and best opportunity to make a case

An appeal brief is your first chance to argue your case, and writing a strong one is essential for winning an appeal. This document allows you to lay out clear arguments and point out errors made during the trial, which can set the tone for the entire appeal process.

When writing your brief, clarity and precision are key. Ensure every argument is concise and directly supports your case. Focus on presenting strong evidence and legal precedent that bolster your points. It’s also important to follow the specific formatting and submission guidelines set by the appellate court, as failing to do so can undermine your case.

At Record Press, we can make sure your brief meets all these rules and standards before submission. This careful preparation starts you on the right foot by making a strong first impression with the appellate judges. A clear, well-structured, and compliant brief can significantly boost your chances of overturning the initial decision.

Avoid tardiness when filing your appeal

Each court has strict deadlines, and missing these can result in losing your right to appeal. For instance, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit requires your notice of appeal in criminal cases to be filed within 14 days after either:

  • Entry of judgment
  • The United States filed a notice of appeal 

State courts have similar timelines. For example, If you’re researching how to win an appeal in small claims court in California, be aware that you must file a notice of appeal within 60 days after the judgment or order has been made. 

Failing to submit the necessary documents on time can result in your appeal being dismissed. To avoid missing a deadline, familiarize yourself with the specific time limits of the court handling your case. Getting close to your deadline? Try our out-of-town filing service.

You must ensure your formatting is correct

Different courts have specific guidelines for margins, font size, headings, and the organization of materials within an appeal brief. Incorrect formatting can result in your brief being rejected. For example, if you’re appealing a ruling in Illinois, the brief must include the following:

  • An appendix with the order under review
  • An index of the record on appeal
  • Materials that supported the original ruling
  • Other specified items

In Indiana, the Rules of Appellate Procedure state that an appeal may be dismissed if you don’t make sure the record and transcript are completed or fail to ensure that notice of completion was provided.

Overlooking these requirements can be detrimental to your case. At Record Press, we can handle the more detailed aspects of your brief, such as formatting and compliance with court rules, allowing you to concentrate on crafting a compelling narrative for your appeal. 

Focus on building a compelling but accurate narrative

Creating a compelling yet accurate narrative in your appeal brief is essential to understanding how to win an appeal. Your narrative should clearly outline your argument and show why the original decision needs review or reversal. Record Press makes it easier to focus on building a narrative by handling the more technical details such as formatting, printing, and filing.

Make your appendix complete and accessible

The appendix of your brief includes vital documents and evidence that support your case. It must therefore be complete, easy to navigate, and compliant with court requirements. 

Record Press can assist in organizing your appendix: we ensure that everything required is included and correctly arranged. This organization allows judges to find and reference documents without any hassle, which can make a substantial difference in how they view your appeal.

It’s not over until it’s over

When it comes to understanding how to win an appeal, remember that persistence is key. Appeals can be a lengthy process, so stay proactive and ready to respond to each development. Your ability to adapt and refine your strategy based on feedback from the court can impact the final verdict. It’s important to remain patient and not lose hope, as things can change right up to the final moment.

The goal of Record Press is to give you the best chance to win an appeal

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Appeals improve your chances of receiving justice, but the brief and other documentation need to be persuasive and compliant. A deficiency in either aspect can seriously damage your second chance.

At Record Press, we help give you the best chance of winning your appeal. Our staff—which includes attorneys, former court personnel, and appellate paralegals—can handle the technical aspects of brief creation, allowing you to concentrate on building a strong narrative. For more information about how our appellate consulting and printing services can set you up for success, please contact us today.