I get this question all the time – what are my chances of winning on appeal? Different attorneys will tell you different things. Some will tell you that you have almost no chance of winning on appeal. Other attorneys will tell you exactly what you want to hear – that they can definitely win your appeal for you.
So what’s the right answer?
ALL of these attorneys are WRONG. Each case is different and the only way to truly know what your chances on your appeal are is for an experienced appeals attorney to learn the ins and outs of your particular case and then put in the time to fully research, write, and prepare your appeal. No appeals attorney at the very outset of your case can realistically tell you what your chances are on appeal. This is a deeply unsatisfying answer, I know. But it is the truth.
Nevertheless, there are actually three more important questions to ask in deciding how to move forward with your appeal:
1. What does your gut and/or your heart say about appealing your case?
This may not sound like the most lawyerly approach to something as legally technical as an appeal. But my experience has shown me that it is the most important question to ask when you’re making the decision to appeal. For example, if you feel like you are obligated to appeal just to see if maybe you can get a different result in the next round, then I would encourage you to think long and hard about pursuing an appeal. The legal process can be agonizing and sometimes having closure is worth more than fighting on. So if your heart is not in it, consider whether it’s worth it to appeal.
However, if you’ve got that burning sense of injustice in your bones, if you can’t shake how unfair things are, or if it just feels like something is plain not-right about your case, then you must file an appeal. Because that feeling you have inside you about your case will never go away. That’s what your appeal is for. To correct the mistakes that were made and to restore that sense of justice, balance, and/or fairness that you’re feeling.
2. How high are the stakes?
If you’re at risk of losing your freedom and everything that goes along with that, well, you almost always should appeal. Trials are inherently fast-moving, messy events. The people involved, including the judges, don’t always get things right. Those mistakes can have an effect on the fairness of your case. And they could also be a reason for getting things reversed on appeal.
The same can be said if you’re at risk of losing a significant amount of money. A new court, with new judges to review your case, could be just what you need to get the right and fair result that you deserve. If the stakes are high, you should appeal your case.
3. Have you found the right attorney to handle your appeal?
This may sound like a no-brainer, but before you appeal, you need to find the right appeals attorney. In the same way that a foot doctor doesn’t know how to do brain surgery, not every lawyer should handle your appeal. You want an experienced appellate attorney whose practice focuses on appeals.
Once you’ve selected the right appeals attorney, then you can start the conversation about what your chances are on appeal. I like to keep my clients informed as I’m working through an appeal. So whenever I find a good appeals issue that I’m researching, I will tell my clients how I think it impacts their chances on appeal.
If you have questions or need help with your appeal, give my office a call at 504-577-2500.
- Sam Winston