Civil, criminal, bankruptcy, and immigration cases may be appealed in Federal Court. Annually, the eleven United States Courts of Appeals decide hundreds of cases.
Civil litigation cases involve legal disputes between two or more parties (private citizens or companies). Civil cases are not about breaking a criminal law, and involve private interests.
A New Jersey Lawyer has only 30 days to file your notice of appeal. Some civil cases are decided by judges or by commissioners (family law or juvenile cases). Others are decided by juries, where it is necessary that at least 9 out of the 12 jurors agree on the verdict.
Some civil and administrative cases cannot be appealed.
The judge or jury has to make a decision about which side wins, based on a standard called “preponderance of the evidence”. This means that, if you win, your side of the story is more believable than the other’s.
There are many different kinds of cases in civil court:
- Contract disputes, breach of contract, damage to property, trespassing on another person’s land
- Landlord and tenant cases
- Enforcement of foreign judgments
- Family law cases (divorce, child custody, and adoptions)
- Probate cases and wills
- Juvenile delinquency cases
A criminal case is a lawsuit brought by the State against 1 or more defendants, who have broken a criminal law. The State in represented by the district attorney (called “DA“).
To convict a defendant, the jury must be unanimous, so all 12 jurors must agree on the verdict. Any defendant has a constitutional right to be represented by a criminal defense attorney.
You may appeal or make a motion for post-conviction relief to have the verdict overturned, a sentence reduced, or a new trial ordered. Criminal defendants have a Constitutional right to appeal. You may generally appeal the conviction within 60 days of the verdict.
You must prove that the court made a damaging error in deciding your case (i.e. evidence of using unconstitutional means or giving the jury improper instructions).
There are three main categories of criminal cases, classified by the seriousness of the offense and the amount of punishment:
- Infractions(i.e. violating speed limits in school zones, improperly disposing of garbage or trash): minor violations and often the punishment is having to pay a fine, which can be paid without even going to court
- Misdemeanors(i.e. shoplifting): for which the maximum sentence is 12 months or less in jail and/or fines up to $1,000
- Felonies(murder, kidnapping, rape): which are the most serious classification of crimes, punishable by incarceration of more than 1 year, and in some cases life in prison without parole or even execution.
Anyone convicted of a felony also loses some civil rights, including the right to bear arms and even, in some States, the right to vote.
Federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over bankruptcy cases. Bankruptcy cases cannot be filed in State Court.
The 94 federal judicial districts handle bankruptcy matters, and in almost all districts, bankruptcy cases are filed in the bankruptcy Court.
There are four main categories of bankruptcy cases provided under the law:
- Non-business bankruptcy cases, Straight bankruptcy or liquidation (Chapter 7)
- Business reorganization (Chapter 11)
- Exclusively to adjust the debts of a family farmer or family fisherman (Chapter 12)
- Debt adjustment (Chapter 13)
- Cross-border cases (Chapter 15)
The USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) hears cases like denials of employment-based or temporary workers petitions, denials of re-entry permit applications, or revocation of approvals of immigrant visa petitions filed by immigration lawyers on behalf of their clients.
In most cases, if the AAO affirms the lower decision, then you can still appeal in the local U.S. District Courts.
Some decisions, such as those on family-based visa petitions, denials of applications for relief from removal, are appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), part of the U.S. Department of Justice. In most cases, if the BIA affirms the lower court’s decision, then you can still appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Under authority that the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has delegated to USCIS, AAO exercise appellate jurisdiction over approximately 50 different immigration case types. Not every type of denied immigration benefit request may be appealed, and some appeals fall under the jurisdiction of the BIA.
These are several types of lawsuits and situations that may warrant representation. If there were obvious errors that changed the outcome of the case, you should consult with an appellate attorney who have expertise in appeals, as you only have between 30 and 60 days to file a motion to appeal.