Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn

Civil rights litigation can be highly complex. When the outcome of a trial does not seem to reflect the rights and protections the law guarantees you, filing an appeal can be a critical step in your pursuit of justice. For this reason, it’s imperative to understand the appellate process and what to expect at every stage.

Civil Rights Violations and Grounds for Appeal

Civil rights violations may occur in countless circumstances. Some of the most common examples include:

  • Arrests when probable cause is absent
  • Police misconduct
  • Prosecutorial misconduct
  • Discrimination or denial of public services based on race, sex, gender, disability, class, and other protected characteristics

If you believe law enforcement or the government violated your civil rights, you may have grounds to file a civil rights appeal following a conviction.

The Appellate Process

The appellate process is not a retrial of a civil rights case. Instead, it is a review of the trial court’s decision. An individual can petition for this review to ensure the accurate application of the law to their case.

There are several steps throughout the appellate process to ensure you follow the rules of the court. After identifying a valid basis for an appeal, your civil rights appeals attorney must:

Initiate the Appeal

Your attorney will first file a notice of appeal for your case, which states your intent to appeal the trial court’s decision. Next, your lawyer must draft and submit an appellate brief outlining the errors or legal issues raised during the earlier court proceedings and why the court’s decision should be overturned. 

Present an Oral Argument

The court may schedule oral arguments to hear your appeal. If so, your attorney will prepare a legal argument and anticipate likely questions from the court. The purpose of the oral argument is to present your case, provide additional insight to the court, and highlight the reasons you believe the lower court’s ruling was issued in error.

Await the Court’s Decision

Following oral arguments, the appellate court will review the case and issue a decision. They may decide to affirm, reverse, or remand the decision (send it back to the lower court). Depending on the case, there may be further proceedings, either in the lower court or in administrative agencies, required to enforce the court’s judgment. It’s critical that all parties comply with the court’s decision.

Working with an experienced civil rights lawyer is essential at every stage of this process. Your attorney will be familiar with the appeals process and be able to help you understand your rights and responsibilities throughout.

Applying the Standard of Review

It’s important to note that, as the appellant, you must identify one of two standards of review you wish the court to apply to your case. These include:

  • De Novo Review – This review applies specifically to the question of law. The appellate court will review the case without considering previous rulings to determine whether they arrive at the same conclusion. 
  • Abuse of Discretion – The appellate court will determine whether the decision on the case was clearly made in error due to an abuse of discretion.

Contact The Keleher Appellate Law Group for Help With Your Civil Rights Appeal

Not every case that ends in an unfavorable outcome has grounds for an appeal. You must be able to identify a valid legal error that affected your case’s outcome. Working with a knowledgeable civil rights appeals lawyer can help you understand and defend your rights.

The Keleher Appellate Law Group, LLC, has decades of experience helping individuals who have experienced civil rights violations get justice. We will stand up for you throughout the appeal process to ensure your voice is heard. Contact us today to get started with a consultation.

The Keleher Appellate Group, LLC, serves clients in Chicago, Denver, St. Louis, and the surrounding areas in Illinois, Indianapolis, Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Colorado. We also provide our services nationwide and internationally.

About the Author
Christopher Keleher clerked for the Hon. William J. Bauer of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  This unique opportunity provided Mr. Keleher with an invaluable understanding of the inner workings of an appellate court.  He saw what persuades judges and what does not, and utilizes this knowledge every time he writes an appellate brief. The Keleher Appellate Law Group handles all phases of appellate litigation in federal and state courts across the country. Read more here.