What is a Motion to Appeal?

N. Madison
N. Madison

A motion to appeal is a formal request to have a court reverse the decision or judgment of another court. For example, if a person has been ordered to pay a monetary sum to the plaintiff in a case, he may file a motion to appeal in the hopes of having the decision reversed. The manner in which appeals are handled may depend on the type of case and the jurisdiction in which it is heard. In most cases, however, appeal cases are decided in a higher court.

While the judge's verdict is typically final, many jurisdictions allow a party to request an appeal.
While the judge's verdict is typically final, many jurisdictions allow a party to request an appeal.

Typically, the verdict a jury gives or the judgment a judge hands down is final. Many jurisdictions, however, have processes by which a party can request an appeal. When a person files a motion to appeal, he asks a higher authority to review the case. This may include asking for a review not only of the decision the original court gave, but also the procedures that were followed during the case.

People sometimes confuse this type of motion with requests for new trials. They may also think of appeals as a chance for a party to a case to bring new evidence before the court. In most jurisdictions, this is not the purpose of the appeals process. Instead, an appeal is a process by which a higher court or higher authority checks to see whether the lower authority made legal errors in the case.

Usually, either party to a case has a right to file a motion to appeal. In fact, it is possible for both parties to file a motion at the same time. If, for example, a plaintiff feels he has grounds for a motion to appeal, he may file one. At the same time, however, the defendant may feel he has grounds for an appeal for an entirely different reason. In some cases, the appeals of both parties may be granted; in others, one party to a case may prevail or both requests may be denied.

Generally, it is helpful to seek assistance from an attorney when filing an appeal. Attorneys have in-depth legal knowledge of the appeals process and may be able to provide insight into whether or not a person has grounds for an appeal. They are also familiar with filing motions to appeal and other paperwork the average person may find complex. In some cases, however, courts provide self-help forms and instructions, often online, that may make it easier for a person to file a motion to appeal on his own.

N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


When you represent yourself, you don't know the process of submitting evidence until it's too late. The courts won't ask and when you present it, it's denied.


@Emilski - Although I can understand your frustration with the legal system, as it does let some guilty people go free from time to time, as well as take up a lot of time and tax payer money, the appeal process is necessary in any form of government that has a trial based legal system.

Imagine if we did not have an appeals process or an appeals process that was incredibly hard to have a case heard. What would happen is that the mistakes made in courts would never be heard and those mistakes could not be corrected.

It is very easy to make a mistake in the court of law and although technicalities shown during appeals do sometimes work in favor of people that do not deserve it, mistakes are made for the innocent as well and the appeals process allows for anyone to be able to have their case heard a second time and give the courts a second chance in order to fix a potential mistake.

A motion to appeal allows anyone to be able to request their case be heard again but it has to be able to show a legitimate reason for the request. If not the appeal will be turned down and seen as a last ditch effort as you described.


Although the legal system does allow for appeals they tend to do so way too often. I know they want to be sure of someone's guilt, as well as provide the defense with a fair chance to address any problems that may have occurred with the first trial, but how often does a case get turned down in the appeal process and seen as simply a last ditch effort in order to somehow "sneak one by" the legal system.


@TreeMan - It is expected that most cases will be appealed in some way, shape, or form. However, there must always be a legitimate reason to do so. in order to file a motion to appeal one has to give the appeals court an argument that states that in some way they were tried unfairly or something went wrong in the first case, such as critical evidence not being allowed, or the sentencing was way too stringent.

The appeals process is set in place in order to correct mistakes made during the first trials and although they do clog up the courts they do allow for people to have a second chance to have their cases heard and allow the courts to decide a second time on the case, to be sure of the decision made.


Something that is never final in the area of law is the judge's decision. Because of the right to appeal a case is almost never over until the either the appeal is dropped or the entire appeal process is exerted and a final decision of the law is finally made.

Many people see appeals as simply a way to flood the legal system and are last ditch efforts to try and obtain a verdict in one's favor, however it law almost nothing is final in the first trial and an appeal is always expected to be filed.

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