What is an Appellant?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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An appellant is a person who files an appeal for a new decision in a court case. For example, a person may be found guilty of charges in a criminal case; he may then file an appeal in the hopes of having the verdict in the case overturned. Appeals may be filed in many types of cases besides those involving criminal acts. Regardless of the type of case, the person who files the appeal is always called the appellant.

Laws regarding who can appeal a case, procedures for filing appeals, and standards for providing appeals vary from place to place. Generally speaking, either party in a court case may file an appeal. For example, if a person loses a case and is required to pay the opposing party a sum of money, he may appeal the judgment. He would be considered the appellant, and the person who won the case would become the respondent. If, instead, the winning party of that case felt he’d been awarded too little money, he could appeal, becoming the appellant. The person who lost the original case would then be called the respondent.


Depending on the laws of the jurisdiction, the type of case and the wishes of the appellant, an appeal may be filed with a different court or with the court that made the original, unsatisfactory decision. For example, an appellant may appeal to a higher court if he feels the original court made mistakes in reaching a decision. If, however, the appellant has new evidence that was unavailable for the original court’s consideration, he may file an appeal with the original court. In such a case, the original court may hear the appeal case and make a new decision based on the new evidence. An appeal filed with a higher court is called a direct appeal; one filed with the original court is called a collateral appeal.

In some cases, an appellant may have the automatic right to appeal a case. This means laws in the jurisdiction guarantee his right to do so. Sometimes, however, the court has the right to refuse to hear the appellant’s arguments concerning the original court decision. Criminal cases may be handled a bit differently in some countries. The prosecution in some places may not have the right to appeal a criminal case in which the defendant was acquitted. The purpose of this law is to avoid having a defendant stand trial more than once for the same criminal charges.


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Post 4

@stl156 - I completely agree with you. Most of the time the appellate judges will not look down on an attorney or his client in appealing their case. As long as their appeal may have some basis to it then they will not be wasting their time.

The legal system always comes up with new issues in their courts to make rulings on and most of these come not from the Supreme Court, but from Appeals cases that bring up arguments that may not have been argued from that way before.

A lawyer may make an argument in such a way that it does constitute what is interpreted by law, but their argument may not have been used before

. When this happens a precedent occurs and it becomes something that judges can use in future cases to base their judgment on. These things are immensely important in law and that is one reason why it is important for cases to be appealed on a fairly regular basis in a system that is full of grey area.

Post 3

@cardsfan27 - I understand the point you are trying to make but appellate judges know that any appellate lawyer will try and make a last ditch appeal to try and get their client off on the charge or a lesser sentence.

It is an integral part of law that the lawyer tries to win for his client and they will use whatever the legal system give them in order to help their client. Making an appeal based on nothing is just an integral part of the judicial system and judges just accept it as part of the job. Also, if someone received a very long sentence it is well understood that they might as well try and give it a shot in an appellate court and they may get off on a technicality.

Post 2

@jcraig - I completely understand where you are coming from. However, I have to say that anyone who is an appellate attorney knows that if they make an unjust appeal to the appeals court it would look bad on them. Most of the time in serious cases, such as someone sentenced to the death penalty, these appeals will be made as a last ditch effort and they will not be looked down upon for it. However, if they make a frivolous claim for something that would just waste the court's time it would look bad on the lawyer in future cases he may handle.

Post 1

Usually in an appellate case the appellant needs to appeal that there was something that went wrong in the original hearing.

A judge not allowing certain evidence that the appellant feels was critical to his case, or if there was something that could constitute a mistrial that was overlooked could be grounds for appeal. However, most of the time cases are denied by the appeals courts simply because they see the appellant's as simply trying to make an unjust claim so they can prolong their sentence.

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