Appeal of State Court Decisions

Cite this article as: Jason Mance Gordon, "Appeal of State Court Decisions," in The Business Professor, updated January 3, 2015, last accessed April 7, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/knowledge-base/appeal-of-state-court-decisions/.
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Appeal Decision in State Court
How do you appeal a decision in state court?

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How do cases arrive before the appellate courts?

The method by which a case arrives before an appellate court varies based upon the type of appellate court.

  • Appeals in the State Court System – The appellate procedure in state court is similar to that of the federal system. Decisions from the trial court go to the intermediate court of appeals, unless the state does not have an intermediate court of appeals or state statute requires appeal directly to the state supreme court.

Discussion: Do you think that state trial court decisions should ever be allowed to be appealed to a federal district court or a federal circuit court? Are there any good arguments for or against this hypothetical appellate process?

Discussion Input

  • Many would argue that principles of federalism require a separation between state and federal appellate systems, except when a state supreme court’s decision is reviewed by SCOTUS. Others would argue that the federal system should serve as immediate check on state courts. That is, one should be able to appeal a seemingly erroneous state court decision to the federal trial or appeals court.

Practice Question: Wallace is charged with the misdemeanor crime of public intoxication. He contends that he is not guilty, as his intoxication was from a prescribed medicine and was not voluntary. The prosecutor brings the case in an intermediate trial court of limited jurisdiction that does not allow for a jury trial. Wallace is aware that he can ask for a jury trial and the case will be removed to the state’s superior court. He decides to proceed to trial in the court of limited jurisdiction. Ultimately he is convicted and ordered to pay a fine. Wallace believes that he would have prevailed in the case if there had been a jury. What are Wallace’s options at this point?

Proposed Answer

  • Wallace could appeal the court’s decision to the court of appeals. The appellate procedure will be lined out under the local state’s law. Having voluntarily foregone the option for a jury trial does not necessarily amount to a ground for appeal.

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