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Appeal

Appellate Structures, Appeals By The Defense, Extraordinary Writs, Mootness And Related Doctrines, Scope Of Appellate Review

Appellate review in criminal cases serves multiple purposes: correction of errors, supervision of trial court practice, articulation of legal standards, promotion of uniform decisionmaking, and provision of both procedural justice and its appearance. Although such review has come to be viewed as fundamental to criminal adjudication, the modern system of criminal appeals is a relatively recent phenomenon in Anglo-American law. England did not provide an adequate system of appellate review until enactment of the Criminal Appeal Act of 1907, 7 Edw. 7, c. 23 (repealed) (Meador, p. 16). In American states, appeals in criminal cases developed unevenly, but had become generally available by the end of the nineteenth century (Arkin, pp. 521–523). For its first one hundred years, the federal government did not give defendants a right to appeal from criminal convictions; criminal cases were reviewable only (1) when a federal circuit court—a three-judge court with trial jurisdiction—certified an issue of law on which the judges were divided, a rare occurrence (Arkin, p. 531); or (2) within the limited range of issues that could be raised by collateral attack on habeas corpus. A series of enactments spanning the period 1879–1970 created the present system of federal criminal review, which recognizes a right to appeal from the federal district court to the federal circuit court of appeals, with further, discretionary review available in the U.S. Supreme Court.

DANIEL J. MELTZER

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law