Overview of the Appeals Process

Fundamental Cases on the Fourth Amendment by Adam J. McKee

Because all case law comes from appellate courts, it is important to understand the appeals process and how it works.  An appeal usually begins when one party to a trial is dissatisfied with the result of the case.  In civil cases, both parties generally will have the right to appeal.  In criminal matters, the right to appeal by the defendant is usually available.  The right of the state to appeal the decision of a trial court is severely limited by the double jeopardy clause of the Constitution.  The appeals process is often very technical, and it is rarely automatic.  The individual seeking an appeal must appear before the appellate court by some legal means.  Common methods are a petition for a writ of mandate and a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.  The petition for a writ of mandate is a request to the higher court to force the lower court to either do something or refrain from doing something.  The petition for a writ of habeas corpus is a request to the appellate court to force the person holding a prisoner to bring the prisoner before the court and justify the detention.

Recall that the United States is a common law country.  This means that, with a few exceptions, our legal traditions have their historical foundations in the common law of England.  Many of the peculiarities of common law doctrines arose in ancient times and have been maintained for hundreds of years.  The doctrine of stare decisis and the writ of habeas corpus are but two examples of such historical features that have been enshrined in our Constitution and legal system.

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File Created: 07/30/2018
Last Modified:  08/10/2018

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