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How does an appeal differ from a trial?

To those who are not familiar with the law on a daily basis, the differences between civil trials, appeals and other legal procedures may not be very clear. If you are like many other residents in Las Vegas, you might even use the terms “civil appeals” and “jury trial” interchangeably. Until you find yourself going through a court process, these definitions might not mean that much to you. However, it can help you to understand the key differences between these two courtroom processes – especially if appealing a case ever becomes an option for you.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights defines trial courts and appellate courts in two clear and distinct ways. Here are the main points about each that you may need to know.

Trial cases – A district court is where you would first hold your civil case if it were a federal trial. These are the types of jury or judicial trials that you might watch on a television courtroom drama, although most real-life cases aren’t quite as dramatized and sensational. Both sides will be allowed to present their own evidence and call witnesses to testify. At the end of your case, either a judge or a jury will decide the outcome.

Appeal cases – Officially called courts of appeals, federal appellate courts may be held if you or the opposing side do not agree with the results of the original trial and have a valid reason to seek another decision. This does not mean a new trial will be held; instead, the judge or a panel of judges will look over the evidence from your first trial and decide if the original decision should be upheld or changed. You will not be able to present any new evidence during an appeal. In some cases, you may be able to take your appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The appeals process is meant to ensure that the court is fair to both sides in disputes between individuals or entities. This information can help you understand the complex rules surrounding civil appeals, but is not meant to be taken as legal advice.

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