Appeals: Chances for Success

Will-I-win

Appealing a Probate Court’s order on a Trust or Will lawsuit is not so easy.  That is true of nearly all civil cases actually—appellate review is rather limited in scope and therefore rarely results in overturning a trial court decision.  In fact, the law states that an appeal court is not supposed to re-try the case or re-decide the facts.  In most cases, whatever facts were found to be true by the trial court, will also be considered true by the appellate court.

The one exception is purely legal rules.  They can be heard and decided by the appellate court without regard to the trial court’s decision.

The mistake most people make about appeals is to think the appellate court will have a new trial on the issue.  Not true.  The trial court has limited powers to review a case.

For that reason, most trial court decisions are affirmed on appeal.  Not only that, the appellate court has the ability to issue an “unpublished” opinion.  These days most opinions are “unpublished,” which means that the appellate court rules on your case, but that case cannot be used or cited to as authority in any future cases.

Unpublished opinions allow the appellate court to affirm a decision in your matter that may be unusual or not quite on point with prior case law.  But no matter, the appellate court can rule and not be worried about how it will affect future cases simply by marking the decision “unpublished.”

The bottom line: Between the appellate court’s limited basis of review, and its power to issue unpublished opinions, your chances of success are slim.  But that’s not to say it is impossible.  And the chances of success increase depending on the issue being appealed.  So check with an expert appellate lawyer next time you have been “wronged” by the trial court and see if you have any chance at beating the odds.