What Is The Appeals Process In Federal Court?
After sentencing in federal court, a defendant has 14 calendar days to file a notice of appeal. The notice of appeal is filed in the trial court. The filing fee is $505. If you can’t afford the filing fee, you can file as a poor person. Once the fee is paid or the court grants you leave to proceed without the fee, your case proceeds to the United States Court of Appeals for the circuit in which you were convicted. For example, if you were convicted in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, your appeal would be before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. There are 94 United States District Courts throughout the United States and 13 United States Circuit Courts of Appeal.
In any United States Court of Appeals, it is very important for the appellate lawyer to be completely familiar with that court’s local practices in addition to the federal rules of appellate procedure. You can run into a great deal of trouble if you don’t know the local rules and practices because the courts of appeal vary in the way in which the record is prepared and what other filings are necessary in addition to the filing of a brief. The briefing is schedule is set by the court of appeals. The appellant will file its brief and the government will respond with a brief. The appellant may also file a reply brief. Once the case is fully briefed, the court of appeals will decide whether to grant oral argument. The court of appeals will notify the appellant that the case has been designated for oral argument. If oral argument is granted, the appellant lawyer will argue the brief before a three-judge panel.
If the court of appeals denies relief, an appellant has 14 days to file a petition for rehearing. In a petition for rehearing, the appellant argues that panel’s opinion was based on an error in law or facts. An appellant can ask for the rehearing by the panel and/or the entire court.
If your petition for a rehearing is unsuccessful, then your next step would be to file a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. An appellant has 90 days to do that from the date that the appellate court enters judgment. Although the court of appeals will also enter a mandate, indicating that the appellate proceedings have now ended, the time for filing a petition for certiorari does not begin to run from that date but from the date of the court of appeals’ decision. It very important for you appellate attorney to know the correct date from which the time for filing a petition for certiorari runs.
The last part of the appeals process would be to file a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. Once the certiorari petition is filed with the United States Supreme Court, the court will decide whether to grant or deny it. If granted, the Supreme Court will decide your case.
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