What do I do if I don’t think a trial court decided my case correctly?

There is a process that litigants can go through If they are not happy with the outcome of their case, and that is called the Appellate Process, or, filing an Appeal.  The process is only available when there is a final court order (only in limited circumstances a temporary order can be appealed), and, so long as the order was entered after a hearing and not pursuant to an agreement of the parties.


The appellate process is much different from the trial court process.  First and foremost, a party who wishes to appeal their order must file a notice of appeal within the time frame provided for in Illinois Supreme Court Rules, which is usually a very short time after the order is entered.  Next, the party who seeks an appeal has to request a copy of the trial court record be prepared and sent to the appellate court, request copies of any and all transcripts (or complete a bystander’s report if the transcript is not available) as well as complete a docketing statement.  Many different types of appeals have their own rules for what needs to be filed and the time frames for same, but these are the general procedures one must take to prepare a record for the Appellate Court.


Once the record is turned in to the Appellate court, the litigant must file a Brief.  There are strict time frames for drafting same as well as very specific rules regarding the form of the brief, citations and page limitations which must be followed.  The brief must set forth the legal argument as to why the trial court erred in their ruling on a particular matter, and only if there is a legal basis for same will an appeal be successful.  Thus, a litigant cannot simply just appeal an order because they don’t like it and expect success; there must have been something done under the law that is reversible or erroneous in order for the appeal to be successful.  The other party has time to file a written responsive brief, and the litigant who filed the appeal files a reply.  The Appellate Court may request an oral argument, where the parties come into court and have a limited amount of time to argue their position and answer questions from the court, but only in few cases are appellate arguments requested by the Court.  Most of the time, the entire appellate process is done through the writing of briefs.


Finally, the Appellate Court will issue a written ruling regarding their findings and if the trial court will be reversed, affirmed or remanded with direction.  The entire process can take months and is usually costly due to the time and research that goes into an appeal, but the experience can be very rewarding if successful.

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