June 15, 2023

Understanding the Appeals Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

The appeals process is a crucial aspect of the legal system that allows individuals or organizations to challenge unfavorable decisions made by courts or administrative bodies. Whether it’s an involuntary dismissal of a mortgage foreclosure action, an unfavorable discovery order, or defending against an appeal, understanding the appeals process can significantly impact the outcome of a case. In this comprehensive guide, we will take you through the essential steps involved in the appeals process, empowering you with the knowledge needed to navigate this intricate journey. 

Understanding the Purpose of the Appeals Process 

Before delving into the step-by-step guide, it is important to grasp the purpose of the appeals process. It serves as a critical safeguard in the legal system, ensuring that individuals and organizations can challenge decisions they believe are incorrect or unjust. It’s important to note that an appeal is not intended to give a litigant a second opportunity to present their case. The appellate court is a court of review, meaning it simply reviews the arguments and evidence presented to the lower court to determine if a procedural error or misinterpretation of the law occurred when the lower court made its ruling.   By allowing parties to highlight procedural errors or to argue why the lower court misinterpreted the law, the appeals process promotes fairness, justice, and the protection of individual rights. 

Determining Appealable Decisions  

Not all decisions are eligible for an appeal.  There are criminal appeals and civil appeals. Ashland Medley Law, PLLC specifically handles civil appeals as it pertains to real estate litigation. In Florida, you can appeal a “final order” or a “non-final order” depending on the circumstance. Generally speaking, an order is appealable when it becomes final. Meaning there is no further judicial labor to occur in the case. However, there are some limited circumstances where a “non-final” order may be appealed.  Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.130 governs which “non-final” orders can be appealed before the entry of a final judgment.  The non-final orders that can be appealed are limited to those listed and described in Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.130.?They include orders that: 

1. Concern venue(i.e., the county or location of the lawsuit); 

2. Grant, continue, modify, deny, or dissolve injunctions, or refuse to modify or dissolve injunctions; 

3. Determine the jurisdiction of the person (i.e., whether the court has authority over the parties);

4. Determine the right to immediate possession of the property; 

5. Determine, in family law matters:

The right to immediate monetary relief,

Rights or duties regarding child custody or time-sharing in a parenting plan, or

That a marital agreement is invalid in its entirety; 

6. Determine whether a party is entitled to arbitration, or to an appraisal under an insurance policy; 

7. Determine that, as a matter of law, a party is not entitled to workers’ compensation immunity from the lawsuit; 

8. Determine whether or not to certify a class (i.e., as in a class action lawsuit); 

9. Determine that, as a matter of law, a party is not entitled to absolute or qualified immunity in a civil rights claim arising under federal law; 

10. Determine that a governmental entity has taken action that has inordinately burdened real property under the Bert Harris Property Rights Protection Act, found in section 70.001, Florida Statutes; 

11. Determine the issue of forum non conveniens (inconvenient forum or location for the lawsuit); 

12. Determine that, as a matter of law, a party is not entitled to sovereign immunity; or 

13. Grant or deny the appointment of a receiver, and terminate or refuse to terminate a receivership. 

Understanding the specific criteria for filing an appeal will help you determine if your case qualifies and proceed accordingly.  

Researching Applicable Laws and Regulations 

Each jurisdiction has its own set of laws and regulations governing the appeals process. Thorough research is important to comprehend the specific legal requirements and timelines involved. Identifying relevant statutes, procedural rules, and case law precedents can significantly strengthen your appeal. The appeals process is complex and is not a process you should do without legal representation.   

Initiating the Appeals Process 

Once you have determined that your case is eligible for appeal and have gathered the required information, it’s time to initiate the process. In Florida, you file a Notice of Appeal in the lower court in which your case is pending attaching a copy of the order you intend to appeal. It’s imperative the Notice of Appeal is filed timely. Failure to file the Notice of Appeal timely may result in the inability to appeal the order moving forward, depending on the circumstances of your case. In Florida, you have 30 days from the rendition of the order to file the Notice of Appeal.  You must also pay a filing fee to the Clerk of Court in which you filed the Notice of Appeal, and a filing fee to the District Court of Appeals in which your case is filed.  The filing fee ranges from $300.00-$400.00 in Florida. Additionally, if you are the party initiating the appeal, otherwise known as the Appellant, you will be required to pay a fee to the clerk for preparing the record for the appeal.  This fee varies depending on the record.  

Presenting Your Case  

After filing the Notice of Appeal and paying your fees, you begin to prepare your case.  Generally, the steps are as follows: (1) Order your transcript of the proceedings; (2)  If you do not require the entire record prepared for the appeal, file directions to the clerk designating which court filings need to be included on the record; (3) Prepare Initial Brief; (4) Review Answer Brief submitted by the Appellee; (5) Prepare Reply Brief; (6) Wait for the appellate court to issue its decision.  

The appellate courts rarely grant requests for oral arguments. Typically, the panel of judges assigned to your appeal will review the briefs and the record without the need for oral arguments from the parties.  

It is essential to articulate clear and persuasive arguments, supported by evidence, to convince the appellate authority that the original decision was erroneous or unjust. It’s important to have competent counsel to represent you in these proceedings.  

Receiving the Decision 

The appellate authority will consider the arguments and facts after hearing your case before reaching a conclusion. The initial decision can be upheld, or reversed, or the case might be sent back to the lower court or administrative body for additional proceedings. You can prepare yourself?for the next steps, whether accepting the judgment or pursuing more legal action, by being aware of the possible outcomes. 



By understanding the purpose, eligibility criteria, and procedural steps involved, you are better equipped to navigate this intricate journey. Remember to conduct thorough research, seek legal guidance when needed, and present compelling arguments and evidence. The appeals process exists to ensure justice and fairness, allowing individuals and organizations to challenge unfavorable decisions and seek redress. 

Contact Ashland Medley Law, PLLC to review your case and determine if filing an appeal is the right decision for you. Attorney Medley has won numerous appeals throughout her legal career and her vast experience in the appeals process has benefited her clients by saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please email us at [email protected], or call (954) 947-1524. 

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