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Litigation & Appeals Overview and Information
Litigation is any lawsuit or other resort to the courts to determine a legal question or matter. Lawyers who devote time to arguing disputed issues in court are referred to as litigators and those they represent are referred to as litigants. Lawyers are required to litigate some matters, such as qui tam actions for fraud against the government.
Litigation involves many complex substantive, procedural, and evidentiary legal issues which require not only a knowledge of the law that governs the dispute, but also the law governing the procedures to be followed in order to properly litigate a claim. There are rules governing who may file a claim, where it must be filed, when it must be filed, and how to file it.
Appellate procedure consists of the rules and practices by which appellate courts review trial court judgments. Appellate review performs several functions, including the correction of errors committed by the trial court, development of the law and precedent to be followed and anticipated in future disputes. In reviewing errors of the lower court, appellate courts focus on errors of law, and will usually not disturb factual findings.
In order to bring an appeal, there must be a finality in the decision or order appealed. There are, however, exceptions to the "final judgment rule." They include: instances of plain or fundamental error by the trial court, questions of subject-matter jurisdiction of the trial court, or constitutional questions.
Arguments upon appeal are made mainly through written briefs, which present the questions on appeal and cite the legal authorities and arguments in support of each party's position. A minority of jurisdictions allow for oral argument as a matter of course. Where allowed, oral argument is intended to clarify legal issues presented in the briefs. Ordinarily, oral arguments are subjected to a time limit extended only upon the discretion of the court. Federal appellate courts are governed by the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. State appellate courts are governed by their own state rules of appellate procedure.
Attorneys who are litigators have advanced advocacy skills and the ability to prove facts and to apply the law to the facts in a convincing way. They represent plaintiffs and defendants in actions for money damages, injunctive and other equitable relief, class actions, multidistrict litigation, and grand jury proceedings. Litigation attorneys are knowledgeable about the legal, court, evidentiary, and procedural rules that apply to claims.
Appellate lawyers are front-line advocates who use their special skills to ensure that trial records are properly developed and protected and that the best factual and legal arguments are preserved later for any appeal.
Appellate lawyers may perform:
* Post-Verdict Work. They often work together with trial counsel to prepare post-trial motions and responsive briefs.
* Pre-Verdict Assistance. Sometimes they are called in before or during trial to help trial counsel identify and preserve possible appellate issues in the event that an appeal is necessary.
* Cases from Inception.
Significant areas of appellate practice include professional liability matters, securities litigation, insurance, labor and employment cases and white collar criminal defense matters, among others.