Appellate work is not as glamorous as trial work. Make no mistake: it is equally as important. Effective appellate advocacy for people who have been convicted of crimes or have lost critical court rulings is essential to the fair administration of justice. Virginia Beach appellate attorney Patricia Hardt is an experienced and effective appellate advocate for clients who have been victimized by adverse judicial rulings and unfair jury verdicts. You, or someone you love, have only one chance to appeal a conviction or an adverse ruling, and you should not leave that to chance. Attorney Hardt will draw upon her extensive knowledge of Virginia criminal law and procedure and search for errors that deprived you of a fair trial or subjected you to an unfair jury verdict.
Judges make mistakes. They are fallible humans just like everyone else. They just happen to have a job in which the mistakes they make substantially affect people’s lives. That is not to say that every sitting judge in the Commonwealth is incompetent. To the contrary, the overwhelming majority of judges are not only competent, but they are also thoughtful, intelligent, knowledgeable, and well-educated.
In addition, judges take their jobs very seriously. They appreciate the power they wield and do so conscientiously, solemnly, and with great care. Judges do not want to make mistakes. Notwithstanding, errors of law happen. As a result, Virginia grants people convicted after trial an appeal as a matter of right. Virginia also has a process to review judges’ decisions before the case is over. That procedure is called an interlocutory appeal.
Appellate courts exist for the very purpose of reviewing lower courts’ decisions. There could be no confidence in the judiciary if there were no mechanism for judicial review. Appellate procedure is completely different than trial procedure. At trial, the parties present evidence and question witnesses then argue their position to the jury or judge sitting without a jury.
The jury or judge listens to the evidence as the fact-finder. The fact-finder then renders a verdict or finding.
The appellate procedure, on the other hand, involves reviewing the record of the case for errors of law. There is no additional evidence to be taken at that time. An appellate lawyer scrutinizes trial transcripts and pre-trial rulings by the judge looking for errors in constitutional law, statutory law, or case law. For example, the defendant in a criminal case can appeal by assigning a writ of error to an adverse ruling on a motion to suppress by arguing the police violated their client’s constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Additionally, the appellate lawyer can read the trial transcripts for evidentiary rulings by the judge that were incorrect. Also, an appellate lawyer can claim that the evidence was insufficient to convict as a matter of law and the trial judge made a mistake by not granting the defendant’s motion for a required finding of not guilty.
Other errors can be claimed as well. Ineffective assistance may be assigned by an appellate lawyer if the trial lawyer’s work fell measurably below the work of an ordinary fallible lawyer. Furthermore, there could be structural errors in the trial. For example, closing the courtroom in violation of the federal constitutional law is a structural error. Additionally, the judge’s failure to give the jury an instruction on reasonable doubt is also a structural error. Structural errors require reversal even if there is no prejudice to the defendant.
To initiate an appeal, you or your attorney must file a notice of appeal within 30 days after the final judgment. You also have 30 days in which to file a notice of interlocutory appeal. Once the court of appeals has docketed the appeal, then the lawyers for the parties file legal briefs.
A legal brief is a formal document that asserts what errors have been made and the legal arguments supporting each side’s position. After the briefs have been filed, the Court of Appeals may assign the case for oral argument. Your lawyer goes to the Court of Appeals to argue your case. The Court will issue a decision sometime after the argument. If the Court of Appeals has denied your appeal, you can seek review from Virginia’s highest court, the Virginia Supreme Court. If that appeal fails, you have an opportunity to file a petition in the United States Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court is very selective about the cases it hears, and the chances are that your case will not be reviewed.
Effective Appellate Advocacy
Virginia Beach appellate attorney Patricia Hardt has the experience you can trust to file an appeal on your behalf. If you believe you have been aggrieved by an incorrect legal decision, contact Patricia Hardt, Esq. today at 757-962-5588 to discuss your options.