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Overview of how appeals work in civil cases

Even if a San Francisco individual or business has a great court case and has prepared for litigation well, there is always the chance that a judge or jury may make a decision that is disappointing.

In some cases, this may just have to be chalked up to the way life goes sometimes. However, in many other situations, the reason the result is disappointing is that it really was not fair or even was contrary to established California or federal law.

In these latter situations, it is possible for a disappointed litigant to appeal the decision either to a California appellate court or, for federal cases, to the Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals.

While no one should confuse an appeal with a complete do-over, an appeal does give a litigant the opportunity to see incorrect or unfair results changed or corrected. A successful appeal can mean a new trial or, ideally, a complete change in the outcome of one's case to something much more favorable.

It is important for those interested in appealing civil litigation to remember that the decision to appeal or not is oftentimes a close call that involves a careful and objective weighing of the possible risks and rewards of appeal, assuming of course that one is able to appeal a decision in the first place.

Moreover, both the state and federal courts have very specific and often complicated rules that govern appeals. Not following these rules, even out of ignorance, can in the best cases lead to an embarrassing reprimand from the court and, at worst, sink an otherwise viable appeal. For these reasons, getting the help of an experienced appellate attorney is often the right first step.

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