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If you don’t have access to substantial financial resources, mounting an appeal to a federal court judgment can be tricky. Most people don’t realize all the costs that are involved since so many of the cases are handled out of court. Appeals involve lots of expenses. First, you have to hire a new legal team or pay your existing team for handling the appeal. Lawyer fees aren’t cheap, but it’s a complete waste of your money to pay an attorney who isn’t familiar with the demands of filing and adjudicating an appeal. The costs of mounting a federal appeal include:

  • Court Costs
    There are court costs for mounting an appeal that are based on the appeal’s outcome. If the appeal is dismissed, the costs are assessed against the appellant, the party filing the appeal. If the judgment is overturned, the costs are assessed against the appellee, which is usually a government agency’s prosecution team in criminal cases.
  • Interest on a Financial Judgment
    If the case resulted in a financial judgment for restitution or penalties, interest is assessed on the judgment amount throughout the appeals process unless the judgment is reversed.
  • Costs of Research
    The fees for appellate counsel to obtain a court transcript, read and review relevant records, request certified documents and research the law are very high. Each expense adds up, and your lawyer fees rise with the time your attorney spends on the case.
  • Appealing a Decision to Uphold the Judgment
    Depending on how determined you are, you might want to pursue other options if your appeal does not result in the judgment being overturned. The appeals court is usually the final authority, but you can request a rehearing by the full Court of Appeals, which might consist of 12 or more judges.The final appeal option is to appeal your case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it is not required to hear the case. Mounting a Supreme Court case would generate big expenses, and the court only hears a few cases each year. The party that filed the appeal must file a Petition for Writ of Certiorari. If the Supreme Court “grants cert,” your case will be heard. The court usually agrees to hear cases about 100 times a year.
  • Miscellaneous Expenses
    Retrieving records from storage locations – such as the Federal Records Center or National Archives – costs a fee for each box. Even electronic document retrieval costs a small fee. There are fees for copying paper documents and having them certified. Conducting a search of records at one of the courts of appeals results in a small charge, and your legal team could research hundreds of records and copy thousands of pages in a complex appeal.

The costs of your appeal can vary depending on which circuit court handles your appeal and the complexity of the case. Simple appeals based on a single issue might not cost too much. However, a case filed on the grounds that the evidence was insufficient for a conviction could be extremely expensive.

In such a case, the entire trial record would have to be printed, analyzed and converted into the appropriate briefing documents. Lawyers would spend many billable hours researching the case. These cases are more likely to schedule a hearing for oral arguments, which raises the costs of the appeal considerably.

Weighing the Costs Against the Benefits

The costs of an appeal can be overwhelming – especially if the appeal is upheld by the court. People who want to file an appeal must weigh the costs against the potential benefits of a judgement reversal. Even those facing long jail sentences should consider how the costs could affect their loved ones – especially if the case is weak.

Most appeals are upheld even when there is evidence of grounds for reversal. The judges might rule that the error in legal procedure was a Harmless Error that had no impact on the judgement. If you do decide to appeal your case, it’s critical to hire an experienced appellate attorney so that you have a greater chance of securing a reversal for your considerable financial investment.

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