What’s the Difference Between a Trial and an Appeal?

Trials and appeals have some similarities, but are far from the same thing. During a trial, the plaintiff and defendant will present their cases, call on witnesses for testimony and present evidence, including documents, photos, surveys, diaries, schematics, reports and more. After a review of the evidence, the jury will make a determination of the facts of the case, unless the parties have chosen a bench trial, in which case the judge will act as both judge and jury.

Picture of a courthouse

An appeal, on the other hand, is a review of the court’s application of the law in a case. Appeals do not utilize juries, nor do appeals usually involves witnesses or any other form of evidence. The court decides an appeal based on either acceptance or denial of the facts of a case as they are revealed in trial court. If a factual finding is discovered that disputes the weight of the evidence, then a lower court’s decision can be reversed.

Another key difference between appeals and trials is how many judges are involved. Trials involve one judge. Appeals, on the other hand, involve several judges at once, the number dependent on the jurisdiction. Appeals are usually heard by panels, which often consist of three judges, unless a motion for hearing “en banc” is granted. In that case, all judges on the appeals court will hear a case to issue a decision.

If you disagree with the decision a court made in your civil case, our law firm is prepared to represent you on appeal.