Decisions (by judge or jury) from North Carolina District or Superior Courts (i.e. local county courthouses, also known as “trial courts”) can be appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. With limited exceptions, such appeals can only occur after a final determination of all claims. For example, if a judge dismisses a breach of contract claim but does not dismiss a negligence claim against the same defendant, then an appeal usually cannot occur until the negligence claim is decided. However, that may not be true if the breach of contract claim and the negligence claim were against different defendants.
In limited circumstances, the Court of Appeals’ decision can be appealed to the highest appellate court in North Carolina, the North Carolina Supreme Court. After an appeal concludes with the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court, it is remanded (sent back) to the trial court to re-do or finish any remaining issues. If the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court affirms (agrees with) the trial court’s decision, then there usually isn’t much left to do at the trial level. On the other hand, if the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court reverses (disagrees with) the trial court’s decision, then there may well be a lot left to do at the trial level—potentially even a new trial.
As far as the appellate process goes, an appeal is like a big research project. Think back to when you were in school. Your teacher assigned you a topic to research and write about. So you went to the library (or the internet). You waded through countless pages of dense scholarly articles, books, etc. You highlighted, took notes. Plucked “needles” of information from the “haystack” of materials you poured over. Maybe drew up a brainstorming chart or drafted an outline.
Then you started writing. First draft. Second draft. Third draft. Others reviewed your paper and offered suggestions. More drafts. Double and triple checking your citations and sources. Everything had to be just right to maximize your chance of a good grade. Then you orally presented your project in class. Maybe with a slideshow or other visual aids.
At last, you awaited your grade. If you don’t like your grade, you asked your teacher to reconsider. Perhaps she let you do it all over again for a new grade.
Apologies for bringing up bad high school or college memories. The ultimate point is that appeals involve a lot of work and are very time consuming. Like your dreaded research project. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest reason is that each appeal is unique. Each appeal presents different legal issue(s) to research and write about. There are not many shortcuts—especially if you do it right. Unlike that “book report” you recycled at least two or three times with different teachers.
And even if the legal issues in your appeal are similar to another appeal, the facts surrounding your case are different—which makes your appeal unique. Facts also consume time. We cull through potentially thousands of pages of hearing transcripts and documents to find the best facts for your appeal.
We are efficient with our time. But we do not cut corners. We do not give half effort. Because your appeal is much more likely to succeed if we pay careful attention to the details. We must nail every juicy fact and every legal citation. Because we never know what fact or legal citation catches a Judge’s attention and turns his/her vote in your favor.
With our eastern North Carolina law practice, we offer better service at lower cost than the large appellate practice firms in Raleigh, Charlotte, etc. who must charge more to maintain their significant overhead. To learn more about how we handle appeals with more expertise and efficiency, yet with a small-firm family charm, contact our office today.