In the federal court system, a lot of errors can occur when an inexperienced attorney handles your trial. They can also occur when your trial counsel was top-notch, and the judges are simply biased or backed up with work and overlook errors. In these cases, you have to take an appeal of your criminal conviction or sentencing. Appellate courts are the last hope for those who are wrongfully convicted or punished too harshly. Below, we have an overview of the federal appellate process.
Pursuing a Federal Criminal Appeal
In today’s courts, there is a great evil being done. Many prosecutors are overzealous and eager to win at all costs. In doing so, they can direct the trial in a manner that presents your conduct or words in a false light. They may break every rule in the book simply to get a conviction and force you through a legal maze in hopes of pulling a fast one. Although prosecutors are supposed to seek justice rather than winning at all costs, their background in criminology and an overzealous agenda can twist their minds to see the good in doing evil.
Luckily, you can override any decisions that were made in the courts below and address any errors by bringing them up before an impartial panel in the federal appellate courts. Judges in the federal appellate courts are appointed and retain their seats for life unless they are found to be in violation of some serious ethical rules by their superiors. While this makes the federal judiciary more independent, it can also make trial judges reckless and biased to shape laws and society the way they see fit.
Filing a Notice of Appeal
In order to preserve your rights, you must file what is called a notice of appeal. A notice of appeal is a simple document that sets out the nature of the final judgment order and the date that it was entered on one-page. This notice notifies the federal prosecutor that you are appealing your conviction, sentence, or other aspects of your case to the federal appellate court above.
Prompt filing of your notice of appeal is paramount if you want any chance of relief and a full review of your case. Trial judges can be a little rough around the edges when they make decisions and can lack objectivity. They rely heavily on the presentations of the trial attorneys and may decide against you arbitrarily when put on the spot to compare arguments at trial. An appeal is the solution to have those errors reviewed and rectified with clarity.
Briefing the Issues
When it comes to appeals, there are no grandiloquent proceedings. The entire process is mostly held in an office of law clerks who compare the legal arguments written in concise briefs. The defendant files a primary opening brief, which is countered by the prosecution’s office in a response brief. The defendant may then file a reply brief to get the last word on a matter. Economy of words and a profound understanding of the applicable law and facts of record preserved below are vital to quality brief writing.
A brief may be accompanied by oral arguments that further clarify the issues and offer an opportunity for live debate before a panel of judges. This may give the court pause before brushing a criminal appeal aside if the reviewing judges are compelled at a glance by your attorney’s key points.
The key to winning an appeal is usually to simplify the claims and show a strong history of consistent rulings in favor of reversal. When it comes to novel legal arguments and seeking clarity in standards of law that were never fully explained by the appellate court, the talent of your attorney at drafting your arguments may be the deciding factor.
An appellate attorney has to be good with words to create a public record, which can later be used to demonstrate injustice in the public forum if relief is not granted. Trial lawyers rely too heavily on the judicial bias of a certain judge and can lack objectivity.