Appellate court

Appellate court

An appellate court, commonly called an appeals court or court of appeals (American English)[1] or appeal court (British English), is any court of law that is empowered to hear an appeal of a trial court or other lower tribunal. In most jurisdictions, 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 (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.[2] 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.[3] 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), the Kentucky Court of Errors (since renamed the Kentucky Supreme Court), and the Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals (since renamed the Supreme Court of Mississippi). 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, which only hears appeals raised in criminal cases, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, 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, both state and federal 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, meaning that they can decide whether they will hear an appeal brought in a particular case.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law and Collins English Dictionary
  3. ^ The term court of appeals is not capitalized in carefully edited texts such as reference works, for example West's Encyclopedia of American Law unless referring to a specific court or courts, but many legal professionals do not comply with this most common English usage shown in major dictionaries and instead capitalize this and many other common nouns in legal texts.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • appellate court — noun court of appellate jurisdiction, court of review, higher court, senior court associated concepts: appellate division, appellate jurisdiction, appellate term Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • appellate court — ➔ court1 …   Financial and business terms

  • appellate court — [[t]əpe̱lɪt kɔ͟ː(r)t[/t]] appellate courts N COUNT In the United States, an appellate court is a special court where people who have been convicted of a crime can appeal against their conviction. [AM] A racially mixed jury in Miami convicted… …   English dictionary

  • appellate court — UK [əˌpelət ˈkɔː(r)t] / US [əˌpelət ˈkɔrt] noun [countable] Word forms appellate court : singular appellate court plural appellate courts a court of law that can change the decision made in other courts …   English dictionary

  • appellate court — court which is authorized to hear appeals from lower courts …   English contemporary dictionary

  • appellate court — ap|pel|late court [əˌpelət ˈko:t US ˈko:rt] n [Date: 1800 1900; Origin: appellate 1700 1800 Latin, past participle of appellare; APPEAL2] a court in which people ↑appeal against decisions made in other courts of law …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • appellate court — noun a court whose jurisdiction is to review decisions of lower courts or agencies • Syn: ↑appeals court, ↑court of appeals • Hypernyms: ↑court, ↑tribunal, ↑judicature • Hyponyms: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • appellate court — /əˈpɛlət kɔt/ (say uh peluht kawt) noun Law a court having the power to hear appeals and review decisions made in another court. Also, court of appeal …   Australian-English dictionary

  • appellate court — ap|pel|late court [ ə,pelət kɔrt ] noun count a court of law that can change the decision made in other courts …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • appellate court — noun A court having jurisdiction to hear appeals and review a lower courts decisions …   Wiktionary

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