An appeal is a request for some kind of relief from a higher court, such as the United States Court of Appeals or the United States Supreme Court. There are many types of appeals in criminal cases. Such appeals can include challenges to pretrial motions, claims that a trial was unfair, arguments that insufficient evidence shows the defendant's guilt, or challenges to the sentence imposed by a judge. Furthermore, most jurisdictions have complicated "post-conviction" or habeas corpus proceedings, which take place after the first round of appeals is over.
A good appellate lawyer must be extremely well versed in the law itself. But just knowing the law will not help if the lawyer cannot get his or her ideas across to the judges who are reviewing a case. Clients need an appellate lawyer who writes clearly and who can withstand the rigors of questioning at oral argument. The attorneys at Kish & Lietz began their careers as law clerks for prominent federal judges, jobs that hone the research and writing skills of students who often graduate at the top of their law school classes. We continue to pride ourselves on our creative and clear writing. We constantly challenge our opponents on appeal by forcefully arguing our client's position.
People sometimes get confused about what happens in an appeal. For the most part, an appeal is not an attempt to argue that the defendant is innocent of the crime. Instead, most appeals are directed toward the issue of whether the trial judge made a mistake or an error in the proceedings in the lower court. If we can convince the court of appeals that such an error took place, the defendant’s conviction or sentence will be “reversed and remanded.” This means the case goes back to the trial judge, and the second time around we often can get a better result for our client.
While most of the time we are looking for an “error” in the lower court, on occasion some appeals do deal with the issue of whether there was “sufficient evidence.” In these types of appeals we basically agree with all the evidence that the prosecutor submitted to the trial court. However, in these types of appeals we argue that even accepting all that evidence as being true there still was not enough evidence to support a conviction.
We handle a significant number of appeals. Most of our appeals are done in the federal courts. The bulk of our federal appellate practice is in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. This federal Court of Appeals handles federal cases that arise in Georgia, Florida and Alabama. Additionally, if we feel that we can make an impact we also handle appeals in the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Georgia Supreme Court. The Georgia appellate courts take care of appeals that can arise from any one of Georgia’s 157 counties.
Doing a good job on an appeal requires that the attorney study what we call “the record” in a case. The “record” is generally the docket of everything that happened in the lower court, copies of all pleadings and motions, and transcripts from the most important hearings or the trial itself. Plowing through the record can be a very time-consuming effort, sometimes requiring hundreds of hours of careful study.
The appellate process can be extremely complex in both federal and state court. Paul Kish and Carl Lietz have handled hundreds of appeals and have obtained significant relief for many clients. Our experience will guide you or your family member through the process of appealing his or her criminal case. Feel free to call us today at (404) 588-3991, or contact us online to schedule an appointment for a consultation.
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