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What is an appeal?

An appeal is not another hearing in the Superior Court, nor is it another hearing at which there is testimony taken in the Court of Appeal. An appeal is a proceeding in the Court of Appeal in which the documents and reporter’s transcripts in the matter are reviewed by three justices at the Court of Appeal for legal error. It is all done on paperwork. There is no testimony. There may be a short hearing called an “oral argument” at which time only the attorneys speak to the justices about the case and answer any questions the justices may have. No new evidence or facts can be presented at oral argument.

Sometimes, a party can request that the Court of Appeal consider additional evidence, but that is very rare. Also, generally, that new evidence only can be presented to affirm the trial court’s decision, not to reverse it. If you are the “appellant,” you are trying to reverse the trial court’s decision, so you generally cannot convince the Court of Appeal to consider new evidence for that purpose.

The Court of Appeal only is concerned with legal issues, not factual ones, such as whether a witness did not tell the truth or should have been believed. Determining the weight and credibility of the evidence, especially the credibility of the witnesses, is the special province of the trial court. The appellate briefs cannot dispute the testimony of witnesses or ask the Court of Appeal to review the credibility of the witnesses. An appellate court does not review the trial court’s reasoning, but rather its ruling. Examples of common “issues” on appeal would include the erroneous admission or exclusion of evidence, erroneous jury instructions, or lack of “substantial” evidence to support a legal theory. If the matter was decided by a judge instead of a jury, the legal theory upon which the judge based the decision often may be raised on appeal. However, a trial court’s ruling usually is affirmed if it is correct on any theory, even if the trial court’s reasoning was not correct.