What are the Possible Outcomes of an Appeal?

Statue of lady justice on desk of a judge or lawyer.

There are several possible outcomes of an appeal — the lower court’s holding may be “affirmed,” “reversed,” “affirmed in part and reversed in part,” “dismissed,” or “modified.” Each of these are very different results.

What Does it Mean When the Lower Court’s Decision is Affirmed?

It’s important to be aware that an appeal is not meant to be a new trial. An appeal is the mechanism that is used to correct a mistake made by the lower court. For example, juror misconduct, improperly admitted evidence, and procedural errors made at the trial level are all examples of issues that could warrant relief on appeal.

When the appellate court affirms the decision of the trial court, it means the appellate judges agree with the result of the lower court order or judgment, and that there is insufficient ground for the appellate court to intervene and disturb the order or judgment. If an appeal court affirms a trial court order or judgment that was not favorable to you, it’s vital to be aware that, then, you may have a right to ask an even higher appeal court to consider hearing your appeal. In New York, the highest court is called the New York Court of Appeals; in New Jersey, the New Jersey Supreme Court.

What Does it Mean When the Lower Court’s Decision is Reversed?

Another potential outcome of an appeal is a reversal. This can occur when the appellate court finds that there were procedural mistakes or other legal errors made by the lower court that caused an improper or unjust order or judgment to be issued against you. It’s essential to understand that not all mistakes made by a trial court warrant relief on appeal. A case would only be reversed if the appealing party’s rights were adversely affected by the error in a meaningful way - a way that actually impacted the result. Otherwise, a trial court’s mistake is considered “harmless error” – one that had no meaningful impact on the outcome in the trial court.

What Does it Mean When the Lower Court’s Decision is Affirmed in Part, Reversed in Part?

In addition to being affirmed or reversed, an appellate court may determine a combination of the two is the appropriate action to take. In the event an appeal is affirmed in part and reversed in part, the appellate court agrees with the lower court on some of the issues, but not others. Simply put, the appellate judges find that the lower court is correct on parts of its ruling but wrong on others.

What Does it Mean When the Lower Court’s Decision is Modified?

An appeal can be modified when the appeals court decides that an error was made by the lower court. But instead of reversing the trial court’s ruling or remanding the case, the appellate court might determine that an order should be changed in some manner, right by the appellate court. For example, an appellate court might decide that a judgment should be for $20,000 rather than $10,000.

What Does it Mean When the Appeal is Dismissed?

This occurs when the appellate court declines to consider an appeal on its merits. An appeal may be dismissed if it was filed too late, is frivolous, or because the issue has become moot. When an appeal is dismissed with prejudice, it is effectively a substantive decision. When an appeal is dismissed without prejudice, it generally can be refiled at a later time.

Contact an Experienced Appellate Attorney

If a mistake was made by the trial court in your criminal or civil case, you should consider filing an appeal. The appeals process is complicated. It is essential to have the assistance of an experienced appeals attorney to help ensure the best possible outcome in your case. The appellate attorneys at Hegge & Confusione, LLC have extensive experience in handling a broad array of appeals before appellate courts. Contact us today for an assessment of your case.