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A, Appeal.

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall, James W. Ely Jr., Joel B. Grossman

From: The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (2nd Edition)

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved. Subscriber: null; date: 07 June 2023


A litigant dissatisfied with the outcome of a lawsuit may exercise certain rights of appeal. To appeal means to have a lower court proceeding reviewed by a superior court. The party taking an appeal, known as the “appellant” or *“petitioner,” argues through written briefs and oral arguments that errors committed by the lower court were sufficiently serious to invalidate the outcome. The opposing party, known as the “appellee” or “respondent,” argues that the lower court acted correctly and that its decision should stand.

Appeals courts are staffed by multiple judges and are interested only in whether prejudicial errors have been committed in a lower court. They are not concerned with new findings of fact. Consequently, the appeals court makes its decision based on an examination of the lower court record, written briefs, and oral arguments, not on newly introduced evidence or testimony. Depending upon whether any “reversible errors” are found, an appeals court may affirm, vacate, modify, or reverse the lower court ruling. Decisions (p. 47) are announced by written opinions following deliberation among the judges.

Appeals are either obligatory or discretionary. An obligatory appeal is one in which the appellant has the right to have the case reviewed and decided on its merits. In a discretionary appeal there is no obligation for the appeals judges to give the case such a full review. The Supreme Court historically has heard both obligatory and discretionary appeals, but the *Judicial Improvements and Access to Justice Act of 1988 made the Court’s *appellate jurisdiction almost exclusively discretionary.

Thomas G. Walker