The federal Court of Appeals here in Atlanta (technically, called “the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit) has its main office and courthouse a few blocks from me here in downtown ATL. I do lots of cases over there. Like many criminal appeals, I usually request what is called an “oral argument” when I take a case that is in the Eleventh Circuit. I spent some time today getting ready for an upcoming oral argument, and wanted to discuss a little bit about this and the appellate process in general.
Many people do not realize what happens in a criminal appeal. For one thing, the lawyer needs to very carefully winnow down and reduce the issues to only those that have a reasonable chance of success. I often need to take quite a bit of time helping clients (and their families) understand that the appeals process is generally not the court where we argue that the accused person did not commit the crime. Instead, we are generally focusing on whether an “error” was committed at some point, either by the police, the prosecutors, the Judge or even the previous lawyer who handled the case. Here is a more thorough explanation of the appellate process. Continue reading