Appellate procedure consists of the rules and practices by which appellate courts review trial court judgments. Appellate review performs several functions, including: the correction of errors committed by the trial court, development of the law and precedent to be followed and anticipated in future disputes, and the pursuit of justice. In reviewing errors of the lower court, the errors focused on are of a legal nature, appellate courts will usually not disturb factual findings.
Several issues are foremost in appeals, such as what judgments are appealable, how appeals are brought before the court, what will be required for a reversal of the lower court (e.g., a showing of "abuse of discretion," "clear error," etc.), and what procedures parties must follow.
In order to bring an appeal, there must be a finality in the decision or order appealed. See, for example, the federal "final judgment rule" at 28 U.S.C. § 1291. There are, however, exceptions to the "final judgment rule." They include: instances of plain or fundamental error by the trial court, questions of subject-matter jurisdiction of the trial court, or constitutional questions. See, for example, the federal statute on appealable interlocutory (non-final) decisions at 28 U.S.C. § 1292.
Arguments upon appeal are made mainly through written briefs, which present the questions on appeal and cite the legal authorities and arguments in support of each party's position. A minority of jurisdictions allow for oral argument as a matter of course. Where allowed, oral argument is intended to clarify legal issues presented in the briefs. Ordinarily, oral arguments are subjected to a time limit extended only upon the discretion of the court.
There are dual systems of applicable to appeals. Federal appellate courts are governed by the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. State appellate courts are governed by their own state rules of appellate procedure. Rules of the appropriate court and local laws should be consulted for applicable rules and deadlines governing appeals.
The following is an example of a District Court appellate rule:
"TITLE 28 - JUDICIARY AND JUDICIAL PROCEDURE PART I - ORGANIZATION OF COURTS CHAPTER 6 - BANKRUPTCY JUDGES
Sec. 158. Appeals
(a) The district courts of the United States shall have jurisdiction to hear appeals (FOOTNOTE 1) (FOOTNOTE 1) So in original. Probably should be followed by a dash.
(1) from final judgments, orders, and decrees;
(2) from interlocutory orders and decrees issued under section 1121(d) of title 11 increasing or reducing the time periods referred to in section 1121 of such title; and
(3) with leave of the court, from other interlocutory orders and decrees; and, with leave of the court, from interlocutory orders and decrees, of bankruptcy judges entered in cases and proceedings referred to the bankruptcy judges under section 157 of this title. An appeal under this subsection shall be taken only to the district court for the judicial district in which the bankruptcy judge is serving.
(b)(1) The judicial council of a circuit shall establish a bankruptcy appellate panel service composed of bankruptcy judges of the districts in the circuit who are appointed by the judicial council in accordance with paragraph (3), to hear and determine, with the consent of all the parties, appeals under subsection (a) unless the judicial council finds that -
(A) there are insufficient judicial resources available in the circuit; or
(B) establishment of such service would result in undue delay or increased cost to parties in cases under title 11. Not later than 90 days after making the finding, the judicial council shall submit to the Judicial Conference of the United States a report containing the factual basis of such finding.
(2)(A) A judicial council may reconsider, at any time, the finding described in paragraph (1).
(B) On the request of a majority of the district judges in a circuit for which a bankruptcy appellate panel service is established under paragraph (1), made after the expiration of the 1-year period beginning on the date such service is established, the judicial council of the circuit shall determine whether a circumstance specified in subparagraph (A) or (B) of such paragraph exists.
(C) On its own motion, after the expiration of the 3-year period beginning on the date a bankruptcy appellate panel service is established under paragraph (1), the judicial council of the circuit may determine whether a circumstance specified in subparagraph (A) or (B) of such paragraph exists.
(D) If the judicial council finds that either of such circumstances exists, the judicial council may provide for the completion of the appeals then pending before such service and the orderly termination of such service.
(3) Bankruptcy judges appointed under paragraph (1) shall be appointed and may be reappointed under such paragraph.
(4) If authorized by the Judicial Conference of the United States, the judicial councils of 2 or more circuits may establish a joint bankruptcy appellate panel comprised of bankruptcy judges from the districts within the circuits for which such panel is established, to hear and determine, upon the consent of all the parties, appeals under subsection (a) of this section.
(5) An appeal to be heard under this subsection shall be heard by a panel of 3 members of the bankruptcy appellate panel service, except that a member of such service may not hear an appeal originating in the district for which such member is appointed or designated under section 152 of this title.
(6) Appeals may not be heard under this subsection by a panel of the bankruptcy appellate panel service unless the district judges for the district in which the appeals occur, by majority vote, have authorized such service to hear and determine appeals originating in such district.
(c)(1) Subject to subsection (b), each appeal under subsection
(a) shall be heard by a 3-judge panel of the bankruptcy appellate panel service established under subsection (b)(1) unless -
(A) the appellant elects at the time of filing the appeal; or
(B) any other party elects, not later than 30 days after service of notice of the appeal; to have such appeal heard by the district court.
(2) An appeal under subsections (a) and (b) of this section shall be taken in the same manner as appeals in civil proceedings generally are taken to the courts of appeals from the district courts and in the time provided by Rule 8002 of the Bankruptcy Rules.
(d) The courts of appeals shall have jurisdiction of appeals from all final decisions, judgments, orders, and decrees entered under subsections (a) and (b) of this section.
Source: US HOUSE REP (1/2001)"