Appellate Law in TX

Our appellate lawyers practice in Federal and State Appellate courts, up to and including the Texas and United States Supreme Courts. Recently, the firm successfully defended a jury verdict in a complex product liability action in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and secured a mandate from the Texas Supreme Court enforcing a contract forum selection clause in a case involving multinational business entities. Our appellate law tradition includes cases involving first amendment rights and ground-breaking constitutional law.

Early Stages of an Appeal

Most criminal cases will begin in trial court, and end in trial court as well. The decision is done and shut, with no room for interpretation. However, if the judge sets the case aside prematurely in litigation, or the decision is entered after a complete trial, there may be room for an appeal. Sometimes the proceedings will even be finished and the losing party can claim that the decision was unfair and request a retrial. And appeal starts by filing a notice of appeal at the trial court level. An appellate record will be created including the materials that the appellant wants to use in the case and should be reviewed.

Standards of Appellate Review

Appellate courts do not try cases again or listen to new evidence, so there is no room to bring in fresh character witnesses or other forms of evidence. Instead, appellate courts evaluate what happened in the trial court to see if the appropriate measures were adhered to, and the appropriate law was used. These issues are usually based on whether or not proper court procedure was followed and if the Constitutional standards for a proceeding were violated in some way.

The appellate court often has the last word on what the law is. On issues of law, for instance, the construal of a statute or the Constitution - the appellate court will not comply with the trial court, but will instead separately determine the issue. On appeal after a pretrial dismissal, for instance, after a summary judgment motion or a demurrer - the appellate court will generally evaluate the materials and separately determine whether the case should have been set aside or whether it should have been permitted to proceed to trial.

On an appeal from judgment after a trial, the appellate court will overturn the judgment, only if it realizes that the trial court perpetrated legal mistakes that were biased during the trial. Instances of such legal mistakes incorporate the trial court presenting flawed jury instructions, mistakenly allowing in or keeping out evidence, and falling short or adhering to appropriate measures. If the appellate court discovers such legal mistakes, the Court will then deduce whether these mistakes were biased. A legal mistake is deemed biased only if there is some logical possibility that it was possible to have influenced the outcome in the case. Therefore, small legal mistakes are usually not basis for a reversal.

Briefing

In a normal case, the parties will file three total briefs with the court. The appellant starts with an opening brief. The appellant's opening brief should describe the case's facts and procedural history and then state why the appellate court should overturn. The non-appealing part, normally called the "appellee" or "respondent", then files a responsive brief. In the brief, the appellee or respondent maintains why the trial court arrived at the correct outcome and why the appellate court should not overturn. Lastly, the appellate can file a reply brief. In this brief, the appellant can maintain why the respondent's claims are incorrect.

Illegal Search Seizing

The First District Court of Appeal recently ruled that the search of a minor's backpack was unlawful based on a forced detention. The minor in question was walking across the street when asked by a police officer if he could search his person. The minor agreed to the search and no illegal possessions were found-however, the police officer then instructed the minor to sit on the curb where he proceeded to search the boy's backpack. In his search he came upon a pistol, which is illegal for a minor to possess.

Your Rights Under the Fourth Amendment

Despite the boy's initial conviction, a judge with the Court of Appeal claims that the search was unlawful because the officer had no evidence the boy had committed a crime or was about to commit one. By asking the boy to remain sitting, he detained the boy and performed an unwarranted search. The ordeal was deemed unconstitutional by the Fourth Amendment, and serves as a reminder to the general public.

Inadmissible Evidence

If you believe that you are or have been the victim of an unlawful detention or search and seizure, contact a lawyer who can help you assess whether or not your rights were violated. If the law enforcement official did not have reasonable evidence that you had committed a crime yet obtained illegal evidence as a result of the search, the evidence could be thrown out as inadmissible.

Forcible Detention

Make note of the surroundings in which the search occurred and whether or not the situation could be seen as forcible. In the situation involving the minor, several police officers showed up to the scene prior to the search, which may have caused the boy to feel threatened to comply. Without probable cause, you cannot legally be tried for the possessions found and the charges may be dropped.

Probable Cause

Beware, however, of thinking that police cannot search your bags or possessions without a warrant. If you have been smoking a prohibited substance, for example, and an officer can smell the substance on you, there is probable cause to look through your belongings without verbal consent. Also, if you commit another offense which leads to the discovery of illegal possessions, you may have a harder time convincing the court to drop your case.

Did You Expect Privacy?

Another way you are protected from unreasonable search is if you were in a place deemed "private" by the general public and judge. For example, hidden cameras by police in a bathroom would be considered a search because there must be cause to conduct such an operation. However, evidence that is found simply by looking through a car window or other clearly visible place is rarely dismissed.

If you or your firm is in need of experienced appellate attorneys, please call our law firm at 512-593-7650 to arrange a consultation. Our Austin business & litigation attorneys can offer legal advice.