Appellate court

Appellate court

Overview
An appellate court, commonly called an appeals court or court of appeals (American English
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

) or appeal court (British English
British English
British English, or English , is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere...

), is any court of law that is empowered to hear an appeal
Appeal
An appeal is a petition for review of a case that has been decided by a court of law. The petition is made to a higher court for the purpose of overturning the lower court's decision....

 of a trial court
Trial court
A trial court or court of first instance is a court in which trials take place. Such courts are said to have original jurisdiction.- In the United States :...

 or other lower tribunal
Tribunal
A tribunal in the general sense is any person or institution with the authority to judge, adjudicate on, or determine claims or disputes—whether or not it is called a tribunal in its title....

. In most jurisdiction
Jurisdiction
Jurisdiction is the practical authority granted to a formally constituted legal body or to a political leader to deal with and make pronouncements on legal matters and, by implication, to administer justice within a defined area of responsibility...

s, the court system is divided into at least three levels: the trial court, which initially hears cases and reviews evidence and testimony to determine the facts of the case; at least one intermediate appellate court; and a supreme court
Supreme court
A supreme court is the highest court within the hierarchy of many legal jurisdictions. Other descriptions for such courts include court of last resort, instance court, judgment court, high court, or apex court...

 (or court of last resort) which primarily reviews the decisions of the intermediate courts.
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Encyclopedia
An appellate court, commonly called an appeals court or court of appeals (American English
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

) or appeal court (British English
British English
British English, or English , is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere...

), is any court of law that is empowered to hear an appeal
Appeal
An appeal is a petition for review of a case that has been decided by a court of law. The petition is made to a higher court for the purpose of overturning the lower court's decision....

 of a trial court
Trial court
A trial court or court of first instance is a court in which trials take place. Such courts are said to have original jurisdiction.- In the United States :...

 or other lower tribunal
Tribunal
A tribunal in the general sense is any person or institution with the authority to judge, adjudicate on, or determine claims or disputes—whether or not it is called a tribunal in its title....

. In most jurisdiction
Jurisdiction
Jurisdiction is the practical authority granted to a formally constituted legal body or to a political leader to deal with and make pronouncements on legal matters and, by implication, to administer justice within a defined area of responsibility...

s, the court system is divided into at least three levels: the trial court, which initially hears cases and reviews evidence and testimony to determine the facts of the case; at least one intermediate appellate court; and a supreme court
Supreme court
A supreme court is the highest court within the hierarchy of many legal jurisdictions. Other descriptions for such courts include court of last resort, instance court, judgment court, high court, or apex court...

 (or court of last resort) which primarily reviews the decisions of the intermediate courts. A jurisdiction's supreme court is that jurisdiction's highest appellate court. Appellate courts nationwide can operate by varying rules.

Institutional titles


Many U.S. jurisdictions title their appellate court a court of appeal or court of appeals. Historically, others have titled their appellate court a court of errors (or court of errors and appeals), on the premise that it was intended to correct errors made by lower courts. Examples of such courts include the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals (which existed from 1844 to 1947), the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors (which has been renamed the Connecticut Supreme Court
Connecticut Supreme Court
The Connecticut Supreme Court, formerly known as the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors, is the highest court in the U.S. state of Connecticut. It consists of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices. The seven justices sit in Hartford, across the street from the Connecticut State Capitol...

), the Kentucky Court of Errors (since renamed the Kentucky Supreme Court
Kentucky Supreme Court
The Kentucky Supreme Court was created by a 1975 constitutional amendment and is the state supreme court of the commonwealth of Kentucky. Prior to that the Kentucky Court of Appeals was the only appellate court in Kentucky...

), and the Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals (since renamed the Supreme Court of Mississippi
Supreme Court of Mississippi
The Supreme Court of Mississippi is the highest court in the state of Mississippi. It was created in the first constitution of the state following its admission as a State of the Union in 1817. Initially it was known as the "High Court of Errors and Appeals." The Court is an appellate court, as...

). In some jurisdictions, courts able to hear appeals are known as an appellate division.

Depending on the system, certain courts may serve as both trial courts and appellate courts, hearing appeals of decisions made by courts with more limited jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions have specialized appellate courts, such as the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the court of last resort for all criminal matters in the State of Texas, United States. The Court, which is based in the Supreme Court Building in Downtown Austin, is composed of a Presiding Judge and eight judges....

, which only hears appeals raised in criminal cases, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
-Vacancies and pending nominations:-List of former judges:-Chief judges:Notwithstanding the foregoing, when the court was initially created, Congress had to resolve which chief judge of the predecessor courts would become the first chief judge...

, which has general jurisdiction but derives most of its caseload from patent cases, on the one hand, and appeals from the Court of Federal Claims on the other.

Authority to review


The authority of appellate courts to review decisions of lower courts varies widely from one jurisdiction to another. In some places, the appellate court has limited powers of review. For example, in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, both state and federal
United States court of appeals
The United States courts of appeals are the intermediate appellate courts of the United States federal court system...

 appellate courts are usually restricted to examining whether the court below made the correct legal determinations, rather than hearing direct evidence and determining what the facts of the case were. Furthermore, U.S. appellate courts are usually restricted to hearing appeals based on matters that were originally brought up before the trial court. Hence, such an appellate court will not consider an appellant's argument if it is based on a theory that is raised for the first time in the appeal.

In most U.S. states, and in U.S. federal courts, parties before the court are allowed one appeal as of right. This means that a party who is unsatisfied with the outcome of a trial may bring an appeal to contest that outcome. However, appeals may be costly, and the appellate court must find an error on the part of the court below that justifies upsetting the verdict. Therefore, only a small proportion of trial court decisions result in appeals. Some appellate courts, particularly supreme courts, have the power of discretionary review
Discretionary review
Discretionary review is the authority of appellate courts to decide which appeals they will consider from among the cases submitted to them. This offers the judiciary a filter on what types of cases are appealed, because judges have to consider in advance which cases will be accepted...

, meaning that they can decide whether they will hear an appeal brought in a particular case.

See also

  • Court of Criminal Appeal (disambiguation)
    Court of Criminal Appeal (disambiguation)
    Court of Criminal Appeal may refer to:*Court of Criminal Appeal *Court of Criminal Appeal *Army Court of Criminal Appeals *Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals...

  • Court of Criminal Appeals (disambiguation)