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Strategy for Legal Appeal

Appeal Law FirmThe Los Angeles and Sacramento appeal lawyer team at Kassouni Law recognize that litigation is time consuming and costly. When a case reaches the appeal process, it is important (as with any stage of the litigation) to implement legal strategies mitigating time and cost to clients.

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Some of the strategies our Sacramento and Los Angeles appeal lawyer team have found particularly effective are as follows:

One of the most common methods of overturning a jury verdict on appeal is the erroneous jury instruction. In some instances the judge provides the jury with instructions that do not accurately state the elements of the claim or the affirmative defense, or leaves out one of the essential elements. This is a classic error of law, which the court of appeal will examine. The court of appeal will not defer to the trial court’s conclusion, but rather will examine the legal issue from the ground up. This is called de novo review.

An example of erroneous jury instruction in a trespass claim the plaintiff must establish:
1) that the plaintiff owns or controls the property at issue;
2) that the defendant entered plaintiff’s property;
3) that the defendant entered the property without permission or authorization from the plaintiff.

In addition, the defendant can claim an affirmative defense, for example that the entry was necessary to extinguish an emergency fire on plaintiff’s property that threatened the defendant’s own house. In this example there will be instructions to the jury on the elements of trespass and the elements of the defense of necessity.

Establishing legal error is not always sufficient, however. The court of appeal must also be convinced that the legal error actually misled the jury, and that there is a reasonable probability that a different result would have been obtained had the correct instruction been given.

On the other hand, if the trial court judge did not make any legal error, it will be more difficult to overturn a judgment on appeal. If the judge or jury made factual findings—for example that the defendant was driving in excess of the speed limit—that factual finding will be very hard to overturn on appeal, even if you believe that your witnesses were more credible than the opposing side’s witnesses. Indeed, the court of appeal typically does not weigh the evidence, nor does it make its own factual findings based on the transcripts.

Another strategy and example of legal error which the court of appeal reviews is wrongful admission or exclusion of evidence by the trial court. The trial court typically makes dozens of rulings on objections to evidence. If certain evidence at trial is highly relevant, but is excluded by the trial judge there can be strong grounds for appeal.

It is also important to understand that new evidence normally cannot be introduced for the first time in an appeal, with rare exception. Also, the arguments that are made on appeal usually must have been first brought to the trial court’s attention by way of a written or oral objection. Without the arguments first being raised in the trial court, the opposing attorney can argue that you waived the issue from being heard in the court of appeal. One of the first tasks of an appellate attorney is to ensure that the key issues on appeal were properly raised in the trial court.

Finally, simply filing the notice of appeal can be a good strategy. Some courts of appeal require the parties to an appeal to mediate the dispute before legal briefs are submitted. This can make it possible to settle, resolving the litigation with minimal expenditure of legal fees. For example, a defendant who has lost a large money judgment in the trial court may offer the plaintiff 65% of the award during the appellate mediation. The plaintiff may be willing to accept this amount in order to reduce the risk of the court of appeal overturning the trial court judgment in its entirety.

Kassouni Law offers clients a team of research and appeal attorneys with a thorough command of the law. Our Sacramento and Los Angeles appeal lawyer team have comprehensive experience representing clients at all appellate court levels throughout the state of California and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. If you or your business suffered an adverse trial court ruling, or received a favorable trial court ruling which you want to uphold on appeal, please consider calling us for a consultation. You can count on the appeal lawyers at Kassouni Law to listen to your legal concerns, give an honest assessment of your case’s legal merits, and deliver unparalleled personalized legal representation. Because the headquarter office is located in Sacramento, most clients find the appellate team’s fees more affordable when compared to other firms headquartered in larger metropolitan areas. Initial evaluations can be provided for a flat fee.

The Sacramento and Los Angeles appeal lawyer team at Kassouni Law serves clients throughout the jurisdiction of California, the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court: