Appellee

In most legal jurisdictions, an “appellee” is a legal party who has won at trial, but against whom the loser (the “appellant”) of the trial has filed an appeal with a higher court. Once an appeal has been filed, the appellee must file a response to the appellant’s legal brief. In some jurisdictions, the appellee is referred to as the “respondent,” and the appellant is referred to as the “petitioner.” To explore this concept, consider the following appellee definition.

Definition of Appellee

Noun

  1. The respondent or defendant in an appeal
  2. One against whom an appeal has been filed

Origin

1525 – 1535 Anglo-French, Old French apelé

Parties to an Appeal

An appeal is a legal procedure by which a court decision or trial verdict is reviewed by a higher court. The party requesting an appeal is called the “appellant” or the “petitioner,” and the party against whom the appeal has been requested is called the “appellee” or the “respondent.” While the appellant in an appeal is usually asking the Appeals Court to reverse all or part of the lower court’s decision or verdict, the appellee, who usually has won the lower court proceedings, seeks to have the Appeals Court uphold or affirm the decision.

Grounds for an Appeal

Because a court proceeding or trial is, by nature, a dispute between the parties, it stands to reason that the losing party would be unhappy with the verdict or judgment. While a losing party may want to appeal the decision to a higher court, there must be legal grounds for an appeal, and simply not liking the decision does not qualify.

Acceptable legal grounds for an appeal, or to have a case reviewed, primarily deal with errors in the trial procedures, and violations of Constitutional rights. Such errors may include:

  • Jurisdiction. The court in which the trial was held had no jurisdiction to hear the case, or another court had claimed exclusive jurisdiction over the matter.
  • Evidentiary Error. The trial court incorrectly applied the rules of evidence, either admitting or barring admission of certain crucial evidence in the case.
  • Jury Instructions. After all evidence and testimony has been heard, the trial judge gives the jury specific instructions on how the law should be applied to the case. If the judge has given the wrong instructions, referred to the wrong law, or inaccurately interpreted the correct law when instructing the jury, the case may be eligible for appeal.

Appeal Briefs

Once an appellee receives a Notice of Appeal, he must file a written response, or “answer,” with the appellate court within a specific amount of time. Failing to file a response on time may result in a loss of rights regarding the appeal. The time limit and format in which the response should be provided varies by jurisdiction.

Both parties’ statements to the Appeals Court are called “appeal briefs.” The appellant’s brief argues points in an attempt to convince the Appeals Court to reverse the trial court’s decision. This includes an argument to each specific issue being appealed. The appellee’s brief provides a detailed response to each and every argument stated by the appellant, in an attempt to convince the Appeals Court to affirm, or uphold, the trial court’s ruling.

Both the appeal and response require thoughtful legal research to support each argument, and both should include copies of all important documents from the trial, referred to as an “excerpt of record.” The excerpt of record is required to make reviewing essential information and documents easier for the Appeals Court, which otherwise would have to thumb through the often voluminous trial record. Most jurisdictions also require appeal briefs to contain a Table of Contents, Table of Authorities, Appendix, and other essential organizational elements.

Reply Briefs

An appeal can get complicated quickly, mostly due to the sheer number of documents exchanged. For example, after both parties have filed their opening briefs (the appeal briefs), each of the parties has the opportunity to file a “Reply Brief,” directly responding to issues in the other party’s previous brief. This is the reason for the formatting and organizational requirements of the Appeals Court. Cover sheets in specific colors, specific fonts and type sizes, page numbering formats, and organizational tables help the court in its review of the matter. Because these requirements differ by jurisdiction, it is important for all parties to an appeal to check with the Appeals Court for instructions.

Possible Outcomes of an Appeal

An appeal does not usually involve more hearings, but a judicial review of the appeal briefs, reply briefs, and other documents submitted. After the review, the Appeals Court may (1) affirm the decision of the trial court, which means that court’s decision stands; (2) affirm only part of the trial court’s decision, and reverse another part, issuing a separate decision; or (3) reverse all or part of the trial court’s decision and remand the case, or send the case back to the trial court, for another hearing.

Finally, the Appeals Court may issue a “remittitur,” which essentially nullifies a jury award of damages in a civil case. This is most commonly done when the amount of damages awarded the Plaintiff by the jury is excessive, or exceeds the amount demanded in the Complaint. In keeping with the necessity of reversible error in the trial proceedings, however, the Appeals Court generally will not reverse a jury’s award of punitive damages unless there is evidence of gross error or prejudice on the jury’s part.

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Judicial Error – a mistake in a court or trial proceeding that concerns a matter of law or fact. Judicial error that materially affects the outcome of the trial may be grounds for an appeal.
  • Legal Brief – a written legal argument outlining the reasons for the lawsuit or appeal based on laws, regulations, case precedents, and other factors as they apply to the case.

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