29 Nov 23

Gathering Evidence and Records for Your Federal Appeal

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Last Updated on: 14th December 2023, 10:19 pm


Gathering Evidence and Records for Your Federal Appeal

If you lost your case at the district court level and want to appeal, you need to gather all the relevant evidence and records. This process is so important but it can be really confusing trying to figure out what all you need. Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through it step-by-step here so you know exactly what to do.

Why You Need to Gather Evidence and Records

When you file an appeal, you’re basically asking a higher court to review what happened in your case and look for any errors. The appeals court judges won’t automatically have all the information about your case – you need to provide it to them! That way they can read through everything that happened and make their decision. So gathering evidence and records is crucial.

You need to give the appeals court all the most important documents, information, and evidence that was presented in your original case. This includes stuff like:

  • All the motions and briefs filed
  • Transcripts of any hearings or testimony
  • The district court’s final judgement
  • Any evidence that was submitted, whether it was allowed or not

Basically you want to recreate your entire case for the appeals court judges. It’s a lot of material, but having it all allows them to fully understand what happened.

How to Get the District Court Records

The first step is gathering all the official district court records. This includes any motions, briefs, orders, judgements, etc. Your lawyer should have copies of whatever was filed, but you’ll also want the official record from the court itself.

To get these, you need to contact the district court clerk’s office. You can usually find their contact info online pretty easily. Call and ask them how to go about requesting the records for your appeal. They may have you fill out a form or write a letter requesting the documents. There may be a fee for getting the records, so ask about that too.

It can take a few weeks to get the official records, so request them as early as you can. Be sure to get the full record – you want everything filed in your case, not just select documents. The court should compile and send you certified copies of the complete record.

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Gathering the Evidence and Exhibits

In addition to the court records, you also need all the evidence and exhibits from your case. This includes things like:

  • Documents and photographs
  • Physical evidence
  • Expert reports and testimony transcripts
  • Transcripts of audio/video evidence
  • Records subpoenaed from third parties

Your lawyer should have copies of any evidence and exhibits submitted. If not, check with the court clerk – they may have retained copies, although the originals are often returned to the parties after a case closes. You’ll likely need to reach out to any experts, witnesses, or third parties that provided records if your lawyer doesn’t already have them.

For physical evidence that can’t be photocopied, you may need to take new photographs or videos showing the items. Get as much of the original evidence as you possibly can – don’t rely solely on transcripts or descriptions of it.

Creating Appendices for the Evidence

The appeals court judges can’t just be sent boxes and boxes of disorganized evidence. You’ll need to organize all the evidence, exhibits, and records into appendices that are indexed, paginated, and easy to navigate. Your lawyer can handle this process.

Each appendix should focus on a specific topic or type of evidence. For example, you may have appendices for:

  • Expert witness reports and testimony
  • Contracts and transaction records
  • Plaintiff medical records
  • Defendant financial statements

Get creative with the organization – you know what evidence is most important for the appeal. Make sure you index and page number everything so the court can easily reference the appendices.

Including Evidence That Was Excluded

A big reason many cases get appealed is because certain evidence was excluded from the original trial. If that’s true for you, make sure you include that evidence in your appendices, even if the district court didn’t allow it.

The appeals court may determine the district court was wrong to exclude that evidence. So if it’s important for your appeal, absolutely include it in the appendices with a note that it was excluded from the original case. That gives the appeals court judges the chance to consider it.

Getting Transcripts of the Proceedings

You’ll also need to provide transcripts of any proceedings in your original case – namely, any hearings, bench trials, or jury trials. The court reporter takes down everything said on the record during legal proceedings. You need those transcripts so the appeals court can read exactly what happened.

To get the transcripts, contact the district court clerk. Ask for the court reporter that handled your case and their contact information. Reach out to the court reporter directly and request the full transcripts and recordings from your case. There will likely be a fee per page, so be prepared for that cost.

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It can take several weeks for the court reporter to prepare the transcripts, so start this process early. Provide the appeals court with both paper transcripts and audio/video recordings if possible so they can experience the full context of what happened.

Creating Your Appendix Index

With all your evidence, records, and transcripts gathered, the next step is creating an index listing everything you’re submitting to the appeals court. This index goes at the front of your appendices so the judges can easily see what’s included.

List out each distinct appendix, with a short description of what it contains. For example:

  • Appendix A – Plaintiff medical records
  • Appendix B – Defendant financial statements
  • Appendix C – Trial transcript and audio recordings

Then, for each appendix, list out the specific items included and their page numbers. So Appendix A would list every medical record with page numbers. This helps judges quickly find what they need in your extensive records.

Double Check You Have Everything

Once you’ve compiled all your district court records, evidence, exhibits, transcripts, and appendices, double check that you have absolutely everything needed for your appeal. It’s easy to miss something in all the paperwork. Better to catch any missing pieces now rather than have the appeals court come back asking for more records!

Look back over your original case and make sure you’ve included:

  • All documents filed with the district court
  • The full district court record
  • All evidence and exhibits presented
  • Transcripts of all proceedings
  • Copies of excluded evidence

It’s a tedious process, but taking the time up front to be thorough will pay off! The appeals court needs to see everything relevant to make their decision, so this is your chance to show them.

Following the Appeals Court Rules

Finally, be sure you follow all the specific rules of the appeals court you’re filing with about record citations, appendix formatting, etc. The court will provide instructions – follow them exactly so your appeal isn’t delayed or denied on procedural grounds.

With your complete set of records and evidence, you’ll be ready to file your formal appeal. Gathering everything the court needs takes time and effort, but it’s a crucial step! Let me know if you have any other questions about preparing appeal records – I’m always happy to help!