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Appellate Advocacy

The Appeals Process, Federal Criminal Appellate Advocacy, State Criminal Appellate Advocacy, Further Readings

Legal representation by an attorney before any state or federal court of intermediate or final appeal.

The U.S. COURTS OF APPEALS were created by the Evarts Act of 1891 (28 U.S.C.A. § 43) and are divided into 13 judicial circuits. The central location of each court is determined by statute (28 U.S.C.A. § 41 [1995]). In addition, a court may sit any place within its circuit, and is required by statute to sit in certain locations other than its central location (28 U.S.C.A. § 44 [1995]). Appeals are heard and decided by panels of three judges that are selected randomly, by the circuit court en banc (in its entirety), or by a division established to perform the court's en banc function in larger circuits.

The circuit courts' original jurisdiction included all matters not exclusively reserved for the district trial courts. The circuit courts also had appellate jurisdiction to review district trial court decisions in civil cases in which the amount in controversy exceeded $50 and in ADMIRALTY cases in which the amount in controversy exceeded $300. They have jurisdiction to review final decisions of the federal district trial courts, both civil and criminal. Their jurisdiction extends only to matters authorized by Congress. An appellate court has no discretion in deciding whether to consider the merits of an appeal over which it has no jurisdiction. The most common basis for appellate jurisdiction is an appeal from a final district court judgment (324 U.S. 229, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1291 [1995]). When a judgment is entered that "ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment," a case is completed (Catlin v. United States, 65 S. Ct. 631 [1945]).

Congress has progressively limited the Supreme Court's power to directly review trial

The interior chambers of the U.S. Supreme Court, the last forum for appeals of lower court decisions.

court decisions without a hearing in the courts of appeals. Because Supreme Court review is usually discretionary in the overwhelming majority of cases, a court of appeals is the highest federal tribunal where a litigant or defendant can receive a hearing on the merits.

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