Understanding the Appellate Process – People often represent themselves in court – criminal matters, divorce, custody, small claims, and protection order matters, are some of the few. In particular, many people cannot or do not have the funds to retain an attorney for family law matters. So what happens if there’s a hearing and an adverse ruling?
Many times, I am contacted by people who want to appeal their decision and say they want to do it correctly this time – with the assistance of an attorney. The problem is that almost all appeals are not about re-arguing the case in front of a different audience. Appeals are about correcting errors in the original proceedings. There must be a mistake of fact, law, or combination thereof, that serves as the basis for the appeal. Then, there must be support in the law for the basis of the appeal. Perhaps most importantly, the law typically requires that the parties object to properly preserve the issue for appeal at the start.
If you have a legal matter where you are representing yourself, and your fallback plan if you lose is to get an attorney and appeal, you need to reconsider whether you should have an attorney at the beginning. Even if you have the funds to retain an attorney for an appeal, he or she may be limited by record and mistakes you made along the way before you decided to obtain an attorney, effectively destroying any chances you have of a successful appeal.