Appeals are a niche practice area that can become a minefield for the unknowing or inexperienced practitioner.  If you have received an adverse judgment or must defend a judgment that is being appealed, you need to retain seasoned appellate professionals with the skill and knowledge to provide effective representation.

Appellate courts are courts that review the decisions of lower tribunals.  The appellate process is quite different from the usual trial practice that most clients experience.  While it is the norm for all parties to have ample discovery and then use what is discovered in presenting their trial court case, appeals are strictly limited to a narrow record of materials that were presented to the trial court.  Similarly, in trial court practice a party may be allowed to repeatedly amend a complaint or answer, file an array of motions in an attempt to gain advantage during the course of the case, and then present the case at trial.  Appeals, in contrast, are largely limited to the legal briefs and oral argument.

The Importance of Legal Briefs

The attorneys at Shield & Levine, P.A. understand the importance of drafting legal briefs that effectively present their client’s position to the appellate court, whether exposing errors made by the trial court or affirming the correctness of a trial court’s decision.  We strive to know all the legal and factual aspects of each of our cases, thoroughly research the issues, as well as understand the strengths and weaknesses of both our case and those of the opposing side to present a persuasively cogent written argument.  As oral argument is not guaranteed, particularly in appellate courts with a greater volume of cases, you need to choose a law firm with the experience and practice to communicate purely through an appellate brief which may be the only meaningful chance to present your case to the court.

Oral Argument

Oral argument is often the sole opportunity to advocate for a client’s position before a panel of appellate court judges.  The purpose of oral argument is to discuss the issues raised in the briefs, clarify the arguments made, and answer questions posed by the appellate judges.

The video provides a representative oral argument in an appeal before the Fourth District Court of Appeal.  Our client had been paying alimony for many years to his former wife, all while she was in a supportive relationship with another man.  When the trial court denied his petition to modify or terminate this alimony obligation, our client appealed.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal ultimately found in favor of our client and reversed the trial court’s judgment.  This case is noteworthy because the appellate court interpreted the then new “supportive relationship” statute (Section 61.14(b), Florida Statutes) to require a reduction or termination in alimony when a court finds that a supportive relationship exists.

To view the published opinion of the court, please click:
French v. French, 4 So. 3d 5 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009)