Am I Entitled to an Appeal?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015 | 12:28 am

You go before the Family Law Court and an order is made which is, in your opinion, simply wrong. Can you appeal? Almost every day in the news you hear of some case decision, whether it be criminal or civil, where the loser says, “The trial judge was wrong and I am going to appeal the decision.” Is it really that simple? The answer, in a word, is no. What is an appeal and when are you entitled to one?

Under our legal system a judge who makes an order has broad discretion when making a decision. As a result, appellate courts generally take the position that the trial court’s decision was correct. To be successful in an appeal you need to clearly show why the trial court’s decision was incorrect.

An appeal is primarily intended to question the trial court’s application of the law to the facts of the case. Trial court judges listen to the evidence in the case and make a determination of the true facts. As an example, if a trial involves the issue of which driver of an automobile caused an accident, the trial judge will listen to testimony of witnesses to the accident, perhaps experts who reconstruct the accident and physical evidence from the accident such a length of a skid and then made a decision who caused the accident. It is believed that the trial judge is in a unique position to observe testimony and the offering of evidence and discern what is the most credible. Appellate courts will generally not question the trial court’s conclusion as to the facts of the case.

So, if the appellate court does not generally question the trial court’s conclusion as to the facts, then what do they do? The purpose of a trial is two-fold. First it listens to evidence and determine the facts of the case from the evidence which was presented. Once the facts have been determined then the trial court must apply the law to the facts to decide the outcome of the litigation.

Next month I discuss how these rules apply to Family Law cases.

Thank you!

Law Offices of Kearney Baker, 2 North Lake Avenue, Suite 1000, Pasadena, (626) 844-7300 / (866) 859-1507 (Toll Free) or visit


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