A deep understanding of the law, first-rate legal research and writing, and skilled oral argument technique: these are the talents that make an effective Fort Collins appellate lawyer. Appeals are a specialized area of the law that most lawyers never practice, let alone find themselves in an oral argument to the Colorado Supreme Court or Colorado Court of Appeals.
What is an Appeal?
Generally speaking, an appeal is when a higher court is asked to review a lower court’s decision to analyze whether any issues occurred such that the lower court’s decision should be changed. The lower court that makes the decisions is called the “trial court,” and the higher court that reviews the decision is sometimes called the “appellate court.” The specific trial court that issued the decision in question will determine where the decision is appealed. Depending on the trial court, state appeals can be held in local Colorado District Courts, the Colorado Court of Appeals, or the Colorado Supreme Court. The Colorado Court of Appeals and Colorado Supreme Court are both housed out of the Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center – 2 E 14th Ave, Denver, CO 80202.
What Decisions Are Usually Appealed?
Deciding to appeal a decision is difficult to make. It is not enough for the trial court to have made a mistake; appeals can only be successful if the mistake influenced the outcome of the case (as opposed to harmless error).
The most common issues that get brought to the appellate court are issues where the lower court:
- Violated a party’s rights (such as due process).
- Made a factual mistake or misunderstanding of the admitted evidence.
- Made an improper ruling on procedures such as evidence admissibility.
- Imposed a criminal sentence that was objectively excessive.
- Made a decision that concerns an unsettled area of the law.
It is important to understand that appeals generally do not allow the introduction of new evidence. Only evidence that was admitted at the trial court will be considered by the appellate court. The appeal is a review of the lower court, not a new trial.
Deadline to Appeal
The deadline to appeal depends on what trial court you are appealing from and the case type. The deadline to appeal is important, and filing even a day late will result in the appeal being dismissed. Deadlines approach quickly, which is why it is important to seek legal representation immediately if you are considering an appeal.
Colorado Court of Appeals
The Colorado Court of appeals consists of 22 judges who are appointed by the Governor of Colorado and who stand for a retention vote every 8 years. Most appeals will be handled by a “panel” of judges that consists of 3 judges. The panel that reviews the appeal is chosen at random, and no party has a right to choose which judges will hear the case.
Every Thursday, the Colorado Court of Appeals announces any new decisions. Copies of those announcements can be found at Colorado Judicial Branch – Courts – Court of Appeals – Case Announcements (state.co.us).
Colorado Supreme Court
The Colorado Supreme Court consists of 7 justices who are appointed by the Governor of Colorado and stand for a retention vote every 10 years. In addition to its normal duties, the Colorado Supreme Court also handles all of Colorado’s attorney licensing and discipline.
On Mondays, the Colorado Supreme Court announces their decisions which can be found at Colorado Judicial Branch – Courts – Supreme Court – Case Announcements and Published Opinions (state.co.us)
At Burnham Law, we are experienced with the appellate process and what it takes to win an appeal. Our results speak for themselves., In 2021, Burnham Law won a landmark decision at the Colorado Court of Appeals, In re Marriage of Cerrone, 499 P.3d 1064 (Colo.App.2021). Hear about this win at In re Marriage of Cerrone, 2021 – YouTube.