Appeals Process in Georgia

 

Appeals Process in Georgia

So your probly wondering about how to appeal stuff in Georgia. Well dont worry, I did alot of reserch and Im gonna break it down for you real simple-like.

First off, appeals are when you think the lower court made a mistake and got the law wrong. You can appeal both criminal and civil cases. For criminal, you might appeal if you think your sentence was to harsh or you didnt get a fair trial. For civil, you might appeal if you lost your case but think the judge interpreted the law wrong.

In Georgia, you start out appealing in the Court of Appeals. They look at the record from the lower court and decide if any mistakes were made. If they find a mistake, they can reverse or modify the lower courts decision. But if they dont find any mistakes, they’ll affirm the lower court and your out of luck.

After the Court of Appeals, you can try taking it up to the Supreme Court of Georgia. But they dont have to take your case – they can deny hearing it if they want. If they do decide to take it, there reviewing the Court of Appeals decision to see if they think that court made any mistakes in applying the law.

So in summary, the appeals process goes:

  • Lower court decision
  • Court of Appeals (they have to hear it)
  • Supreme Court of Georgia (they can deny hearing it)

Pretty simple right? Now for some of the nitty gritty details…

Deadlines

You only got a certain amount of time to file your appeal after the lower court rules against you. For civil cases, its usually 30 days but for criminal cases its way shorter – only 10 days! So dont drag your feet getting your appeal going.

Records & Evidence

The appeals courts will only look at the official record from the lower court – they wont hear any new evidence or listen to testimony. So make sure you get all your evidence and objections into the record during the original trial.

Standards of Review

The appeals court uses different standards when reviewing different types of lower court decisions:

  • Questions of Fact – they use the “clearly erroneous” standard and give more deference to the lower court.
  • Questions of Law – they use the “de novo” standard and give the lower court no deference.
  • Discretionary Decisions – they use an “abuse of discretion” standard.

So if your appealing factual findings, its a tougher case to win than if your just arguing over a legal interpretation.

Oral Arguments

After all the briefs are filed, the appeals court might hear oral arguments where each side gets to go before the judges and make their case. But dont count on it – lots of appeals are decided without oral arguments.

Judges and Decisions

The Court of Appeals has a bunch of judges that hear cases in panels of three. The Supreme Court has seven justices that hear cases together.

Appeals courts can make all kinds of decisions:

  • Affirm the lower court ruling
  • Reverse the lower court ruling
  • Remand the case back to the lower court
  • Modify the lower court ruling

Usually you need a majority of judges to agree to reverse or modify a decision. But it only takes one judge to dissent and say they think the lower court got it right!

Appeals in Criminal Cases

Criminal appeals are a whole different ballgame because convicts have more protections. Even if they lose in the Court of Appeals, all criminal defendants have a right to appeal again to the Georgia Supreme Court. And death row inmates get an automatic appeal straight to the Supreme Court, skipping over the Court of Appeals.

Also, criminal defendants who cant afford a lawyer get a free one appointed by the state for their appeal. But civil litigants have to pay for their own lawyer.

The biggest thing is that for criminal appeals, the burden is on the prosecution to prove that any legal errors were “harmless.” In other words, they have to show the outcome would have been the same even if mistakes were’nt made. Otherwise, the defendant gets a new trial or sentencing.

Some Final Thoughts

– The appeals courts are there to fix legal mistakes – not just give the losing party another chance to argue their case. So you need strong arguments about real errors to win your appeal.

– Start the appeals process ASAP if you want to challenge the lower courts ruling. Those deadlines come up quick!

– Be ready to shell out for lawyer fees and court costs if your doing a civil appeal. The process can drag on for months or even years.

– Even with a solid appeal, overturning a lower court ruling is never guaranteed. The majority of appeals still end up getting affirmed or denied. So manage your expectations.

Well I hope this breakdown helped explain the appeals process in Georgia! Let me know if you have any other legal questions. I may not be a real lawyer but I’ve watched enough Judge Judy to fake it lol.

References

[1] Georgia Assessment Administration Manual

[2] Georgia Milestones Assessment Guide

[3] 501 Grammar & Writing Questions

[4] Pfizer Petition to Supreme Court

[5] Georgia Bar Journal

[6] US Courts Committee Agenda