A federal criminal appeal can be costly, especially if the appeal is prolonged and complicated. Some of the factors that contribute to high costs is the need for additional attorney hours as a result of extensive trial transcripts and documentary evidence that can add up to hundreds, if not thousands of pages. In addition to more attorney hours, the complexity of an appellate case can also increase the number of staff hours, which further raises fees.
There is no such thing as an average cost for an appeal because there are simply too many factors to consider. However, the costs for an appeal when a case is straightforward will be significantly less than an appeal for a case that lasted several weeks and involved a jury trial. Simple cases involving a plea and sentencing have far less expenses.
Another factor that contributes to the cost is the amount of time that it takes counsel to complete varied tasks. While there are common functions that can be estimated, such as researching case law and writing briefs, there are a wide range of other tasks that may be required, especially if an oral argument is requested and granted.
If a point of contention arises during an appeal, a substantial amount of research could be required to address the problem. This could be an issue of significance caused by an error that made it into the transcript, which has the potential to affect the outcome of the appeal. When a dispute exists, the appellate court is unable to move forward with the appeal. What further complicates the matter is the fact that the appellate court does not resolve disputes because they are not courts of record.
Resolving an error can be costly because a hearing will have to be held at the district court where the trial judge will make a decision regarding the dispute. This is clearly an issue that can take up a significant amount of time. In addition to increased expenses, there’s the time factor since the appellate process has been halted while a decision is being made by the district court. One of the reasons why errors are so frustrating is because they cannot be predicted, which means the unexpected costs cannot be avoided.
While the cost of staff and attorney time usually cannot be estimated, there are some costs associated with a federal criminal appeal that are standard, such as the filing fee that’s between $400-$500 across the country. It’s worth noting that one of the highest costs associated with appellate cases are transcripts. The cost of transcripts are standard and typically based on a cost per page. Whether the court reporter works directly for the court or is contracted, the fee will remain standard. Since the transcript is one of the highest costs involved, you can always contact the court reporter to get an estimate on the cost. The transcript for a case that lasted for several days can cost several thousand dollars.
There are some instances when litigants must provide the federal appellate courts with a copy or multiple copies of the appendix. Sometimes it must be provided in a specific format that includes binding. As a result of strict requirements, it can result in an exceptionally large document that costs thousands of dollars to reproduce multiple copies. The possibilities of what documents are required by the appellate court can vary and so can related costs. Fortunately, there are some courts that have welcomed technology and electronic filings. Appellate lawyers across the country are likely hoping that all districts embrace electronic filings.
Two more examples of costs associated with a federal criminal appeal include counsel travel for the purpose of attending an oral argument and practice sessions (moot courts), which of course are optional, but exceptionally valuable since they prepare counsel for what’s likely to happen in the federal circuit courts.