Legal Team Assists You with State Appeals in Virginia
Handling civil and criminal cases in McLean, VA
If you wish to appeal your case at the state level, you need to consult with a knowledgeable attorney. Virginia has very strict and unforgiving deadlines for noting and perfecting appeals. Missing deadlines — even by a day — is likely to be fatal to your case. In addition to the strict deadlines, rules of the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court of Virginia strictly govern what must be filed, the content that must be included, and the format — down to the color of the cover of the briefs, and the type and size of the font. These rules must be strictly followed. At The Leiser Law Firm we do not delay in advancing our clients’ cases forward. We understand the stakes, and our lawyers advocate passionately for you.
The judicial system in Virginia
Before delving into the appeals process in Virginia, it is important to first be familiar with the general layout of Virginia’s judicial system. That system comprises several courts:
- Trial courts — Virginia’s three trial courts are the General District Courts, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts — both courts of limited subject matter jurisdiction — and the Circuit Courts — courts of general jurisdiction. The General District Court hears minor criminal cases (traffic and misdemeanor) and civil cases when the amount in controversy is less than $25,000. The Circuit Court can hear any case of any type within its statutory grant of subject matter jurisdiction. When people appear in court on TV and in the news, they generally are appearing in the Circuit Court. These trial courts handle the bulk of the work of the court system. They rule on motions, hear petitions, and hold trials on a daily basis.
- Intermediate appellate court — Virginia’s intermediate appellate court is called the Court of Appeals of Virginia. In certain cases, a party dissatisfied with the ruling of a trial court or administrative agency can ask the Court of Appeals to hear and consider the appeal.
- The Supreme Court of Virginia — This is the highest state court in Virginia. In certain circumstances, it reviews the decisions of the Court of Appeals of Virginia and the Circuit Courts.
The appellate process is a system that seeks to ensure that every litigant is treated fairly under the law and afforded the rights and protections guaranteed by statutes, the Virginia Constitution, and the U.S. Constitution.
The procedure for filing criminal and civil appeals differs in Virginia
In Virginia, a party who loses a criminal case or a domestic relations case in Circuit Court can seek to have the Court of Appeals of Virginia review the case if that party has legitimate grounds for appeal — including an erroneous procedural or substantive ruling by the Circuit Court. For example, in a criminal case, a defendant who is convicted of a crime might seek an appeal based on the fact that certain evidence was admitted in violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Any party in a non-domestic relations civil action may appeal the judgment of the trial court. The civil appellate procedure is as follows:
- File a notice of appeal — You must file a notice of appeal with the court that issued the judgment and send a copy to opposing counsel. The notice of appeal is a legal form that advises the court and other attorneys that a party is seeking review of the trial court’s decision in the appellate court.
- File a bond for costs — The appealing party (or appellant) is required to post a bond with the appellate court before the appeal is considered. People who cannot afford to post the bond can seek a waiver of the bonding requirement from the court.
- File transcripts — The transcript is a verbatim written reproduction of the trial testimony and other incidents of the trial, including the court’s rulings on evidentiary and other matters. Everything said during a trial court proceeding is recorded or typed by a court reporter, if one is hired by one of the parties. To understand what went on during the case, the appellate court needs to be able to review the transcript.
- The record on appeal, appendix, and briefs — The appellant must arrange for transmittal of the record from the trial court to the appropriate appellate tribunal. The transmittal is performed by the trial court. In addition, the appellant must file an appendix containing all the papers that are to be relied upon in support of the appeal. Depending on the complexity of the case, the appendix can be only a few pages or hundreds of pages or more — included among many volumes. Finally, the appellant must file a brief — a legal document that explains the appellant’s side of the story and makes legal arguments based on statutes and case law regarding why the trial court’s decisions should be overturned. The other party, known as the appellee, then files a brief arguing why the trial court’s decision should be upheld.
- Oral argument — Once all briefs and papers have been submitted, the attorneys for the appellant and appellee are usually given an opportunity to appear before the appellate court, to argue their respective positions. Oral argument is the most dramatic part of a legal proceeding, though usually not as important as the written arguments submitted in the parties’ briefs.
- Decision — After hearing the oral argument, the appellate court either overturns (reverses) or upholds (affirms) the trial court’s decision, and may remand the case — sending it back to the trial court for further proceedings directed by the appellate court.
The procedure for criminal cases varies somewhat from this procedure. The Leiser Law Firm is prepared to assist our clients in both civil and criminal appeals.
Common cases appealed
Litigants appeal for various reasons, including both procedural and substantive legal rulings by the trial court alleged to be in error. Some common types of appeals include:
- Excessive judgments — In these cases, the losing party believes that the judgment entered by the trial court is excessive or unfairly punitive.
- Summary judgments — In summary judgment cases, the trial court makes a judgment without first hearing the entire case. In such cases, the trial court can enter judgment only if no important facts are in dispute between the parties. Often the party that loses on a summary judgment motion argues that the trial court improperly made factual findings.
- Evidentiary issues — In both the civil and criminal context, the rules of evidence provide fertile grounds for appeals. The rules of evidence (as interpreted by courts over many years) dictate what types of evidence can be reviewed by the jury, or by the judge if it is a bench trial. Often, a losing party in a civil or criminal case argues that certain evidence should have been excluded, or that the trial court judge improperly excluded critical evidence that would likely have swayed the jury. In civil cases, such appeals are often based on Virginia’s rules of evidence. In criminal cases appeals are often based on state and/or federal constitutional arguments.
Experienced litigation attorneys fight aggressively for appellants in Northern Virginia
The Leiser Law Firm provides high-quality legal counsel to clients seeking to appeal state or federal decisions. Our attorneys have years of experience handling the toughest cases throughout Virginia. If you would like to schedule a consultation to discuss your case with a lawyer at our firm, contact us online or call 703-734-5000.