Appellate Court

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Definition: Appellate Court

Appellate Court

Quick Summary of Appellate Court

Technically, any court in which an appeal may be heard. In England, the term is normally used, if at all, with reference to the Court of Appeal. In other common-law jurisdictions (e.g. the United States), use of the term is considerably more widespread.

What is the dictionary definition of Appellate Court?

Dictionary Definition

A higher court that reviews the decision of a lower court when a losing party files for an appeal.

An appellate court 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 supreme court is, therefore, itself a kind of appellate court.

n. a court of appeals which hears appeals from lower court decisions. The term is often used in legal briefs to describe a court of appeals.

Full Definition of Appellate Court

The appellate court is the court which has legal jurisdiction to hear cases on appeal from a lower court. They do not try cases but rather review questions of law or whether the trial judge or decision-maker correctly determined the facts of the case or whether they made a procedural error. The appellate courts are restricted to the evidence and exhibits presented at the trial court level.

Consider, it does not matter whether a claimant is unhappy with a decision or whether minor mistakes were made in a case; the issue will be whether the judge made a legal error. In some civil cases if you lose an appeal you may be forced to pay the costs of the opposing counsel. Even if you decide to hire a personal injury lawyer to appeal a civil decision it’s recommended that you review the appellate procedures, court rules, case law, and statutes that govern your personal injury case before deciding whether or not to appeal a decision.

Institutional Titles

Many jurisdictions title their appellate court a Court of Appeal or Court of Appeals. 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) and the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors (which has been renamed the Connecticut Supreme Court). 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.

Authority To Review

The authority of appellate courts to review the 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.

Appellate Court FAQ's

What Is The Appellate Court?

An appellate court is a court that hears cases in which a lower court — either a trial court or a lower-level appellate court — has already made some decision, which at least one party to the action wants to challenge based upon some legal grounds that are allowed to be appealed either by right or by leave of the appellate court. A party who files an appeal is called an appellant, and a party on the other side is an appellee or, in some jurisdictions, a respondent. Cross-appeals can also occur, when more than one party to a case is unhappy with the decision in some way, often when the winning party claims that more damages were deserved than were awarded.

An appeal as of right is one that is guaranteed by statute or some underlying constitutional or legal principle. The appellate court cannot refuse to listen to the appeal. An appeal by leave requires the appellant to move for leave to appeal; in such a situation the appellate court has the discretion to grant or refuse the appellant’s demand to appeal the lower court decision.

Generally speaking the appellate court examines the record of evidence presented in the trial court and the law that the lower court applied and decides whether that decision was legally sound or not. The appellate court will typically be deferential to the lower court’s findings of fact (such as whether a defendant committed a particular act), unless clearly erroneous, and so will focus on the court’s application of the law to those facts (such as whether the act found by the court to have occurred fits a legal definition at issue). If the appellate court finds no defect, it “affirms” the judgment. If the appellate court does find a legal defect in the decision “below” (i.e., in the lower court), it may “modify” the ruling to correct the defect, or it may nullify (“reverse” or “vacate”) the whole decision or any part of it. It may in addition send the case back (“remand” or “remit”) to the lower court for further proceedings to remedy the defect. In some cases an appellate court may review a lower court decision de novo (or completely), challenging even the lower court’s findings of fact. This would be the proper standard of review, for example, if the lower court resolved the case by a pre-trial summary judgment motion to dismiss which is usually based only upon written submissions to the trial court and not on any trial testimony.

Sometimes the appellate court finds a defect in the procedure the parties used in filing the appeal and dismisses the appeal without considering its merits, which has the same effect as affirming the judgment below. (This would happen, for example, if the appellant waited too long, under the appellate court’s rules, to file the appeal.) In England and many other jurisdictions, however, the phrase appeal dismissed is equivalent to the U.S. term affirmed; and the phrase appeal allowed is equivalent to the U.S. term reversed.

Generally there is no trial in an appellate court, only consideration of the record of the evidence presented to the trial court and all the pre-trial and trial court proceedings are reviewed — in very rare instances new evidence may be considered on appeal if that material evidence was unavailable to a party for some very significant reason such as prosecutorial misconduct.

After copies of the record have been made and certified by the court below the appellant has the opportunity to present arguments for the granting of the appeal and the appellee (or respondent) can present arguments against it. Arguments of the parties to the appeal are presented through their appellate lawyers, if represented, or pro se if the party has not engaged legal representation. Those arguments are presented in written briefs and sometimes in oral argument to the court at a hearing. At such hearings each party is allowed a brief presentation at which the appellate judges ask questions based on their review of the record below and the submitted briefs.

It is important to note that in an adversarial system appellate courts do not have the power to review lower court decisions unless a party appeals it. Therefore if a lower court has ruled in an inproper manner or against legal precedent that judgment will stand even if it might have been overturned on appeal.

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Appellate Court. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd.
December 08, 2022
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Appellate Court. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: December 08, 2022).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Appellate Court. Retrieved December 08, 2022
, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Appellate Court are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 26th November, 2021 | 0 Views.