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If you recently lost a civil case in Kentucky, you may be considering recourse. As the American Bar Association explains, in civil suits, either the defendant or the plaintiff may seek an appeal in most cases. But many litigants misunderstand the appeals process and when it is an appropriate legal option.

Understanding state and federal law concerning appeals can help you determine your options if you are facing an unfavorable ruling.

When can you appeal a case?

Many people mistakenly believe that appeals are a retrial of their case, but this is inaccurate. Appellate courts typically do not accept new evidence or hear witnesses. Instead, appellate courts consider the details of the lower court trial to determine whether the ruling was fair and legally sound.

In other words, you may not seek an appeal simply because you did not like the outcome. You will need to make a reasonable claim that the judge misinterpreted the law or that the court made errors in handling your case.

An appellate court can override the lower court’s decision but will typically only do so in the case of a legal misinterpretation that was significant enough to result in an unfair ruling.

What is the process of appealing a case?

If you wish to appeal a case, you will first file a notice of appeal, after which you will have a certain window to produce a brief. A brief is a written presentation of your arguments against the lower court’s ruling — the reason you believe the lower court’s ruling was unfair or legally unsound. The other party in a civil case will then have the ability to submit a responding brief. Finally, you may submit one final counter response if you wish.

In many cases, the appellate court will make a determination based only on these briefs, but they may choose to hold a hearing, as well. Much of the time, the appellate ruling stands, but sometimes you may escalate your case further in a higher court, eventually to the Supreme Court in a few cases.

The Supreme Court may accept or refuse your case. They will typically only accept cases that potentially hold national significance for future cases.