The purpose of a federal criminal appeal is to have an appellate court make a decision on a judgment made by a district court. Specifically, the appellate court will assess the judgment based on legal grounds. They are essentially responding to alleged legal errors. Here are three things you should know about federal criminal appeals:
1. Oral Arguments Are Important on Appeal
Generally speaking, federal appeals do no involve contact with the parties to the case. This is because most of the process is facilitated in writing. From the moment the notice of appeal is filed until the written decision is received either by email or mail, there’s a good chance that counsel will not interact with anyone from the appellate court in person.
Even though the entire process can take as long as a year or more, it’s still likely that no face-to-face interaction will occur. An exception is if an oral argument is requested and granted by the appeals court. If that happens, counsel will have an opportunity to respond to questions that arise as appellate judges review the case.
2. Details Are Critical During an Appeal
Appellate judges review hundreds of cases as they endeavor to make decisions about the legal proceedings of cases in district courts. Perhaps due to the sheer volume of cases that run through the appellate court, or maybe for the sake of order and adherence to the law, there are strict rules that must be followed when filing briefs. It is common for briefs to be returned because of a failure to comply with technical rules. This could be something as simple as not binding documents properly.
While it might seem like this isn’t a big deal on the surface, it can actually become a problem because it’s something that can reflect negatively on counsel. It’s also a problem that can prolong the appellate process that already happens to be exceptionally long. Counsel must keep in mind that a person’s life is on hold during the appeals process. There should be a standard of professionalism and careful attention to detail, if for no other reason than because an appeal has the potential to change a person’s life and mistakes delay the outcome.
3. appeals Can Cost a Lot of Money
There is literally no way to provide a precise estimate of how much a federal criminal appeal will cost. However, there are ways to provide a broad estimate based on different factors. For instance, a trial that involved long district court proceedings because the case was complicated will cost a lot more than a simple trial that wrapped up quickly. This is partially because of the effort that goes into gathering and reviewing trial transcripts. The costs involved encompass fees for attorney hours and staff hours. There’s also the filing fee of approximately $455 that’s standard across federal district courts.
Of the above referenced costs, one of the highest expenses associated with an appeal is transcription. This includes the cost of a court reporter and reproduction of the transcripts. It’s not uncommon for transcripts to be thousand of pages long. You’d be surprised by how much it costs to make copies of a 5,000 page transcript.
Another expense that’s worthy of consideration is the cost for the appendix. In order for appellate judges to consider errors made by a district court, they must receive everything pertaining to the case that was in the possession of the district court. Since there is usually a panel of judges, multiple copies are required. As with other submissions, there are rules requiring the appendix to be submitted in a specific format.
If a trial lasted for a couple of weeks, there is likely a significant amount of evidence that would fall under the appendix category. By the time all of the documents are reproduced and bound in accordance with appellate court rules, the costs have drastically increased.