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What are Successful Grounds for an Appeal?

When a court renders an unfavourable or unjust decision, individuals may wonder if there is a way to challenge the ruling. This is where the grounds for an appeal come into play. An appeal provides an opportunity to seek a review of a lower court’s decision by a higher court, with the hope of obtaining a more favourable outcome.

An appeal is typically made after a final judgment or decision has been rendered by a court of law. An appellant must file a notice of appeal within the time limits, which depends on the type of case and jurisdiction.

Why an Appeal Could Be Your Second Chance

An appeal offers a party who has lost a court case a second chance to be heard. Losing a court case can significantly affect a party’s reputation, financial situation, and liberty.

An appeal challenges the lower court’s decision and seeks a different outcome. It offers a chance to correct errors that may have occurred during the trial process. An appeal also provides an opportunity to review the evidence afresh, seek legal clarification for questions of law, and remedy injustices.

During an appeal, a court reviews the trial record to assess whether there are grounds for an appeal from legal errors or whether the lower court’s decision was reasonable based on the evidence presented. 

Types of Grounds for an Appeal That Can Win

When it comes to winning appeals, several types of grounds can contribute to a successful outcome. These are commonly recognized as strong grounds for winning an appeal:

Legal Errors

Legal errors are mistakes or misapplications of the law during a trial. In the legal system, a judge is the decision maker, and they decide based on their understanding of the applicable laws and legal precedents. Judges can sometimes make a mistake.

A judge may overlook important legal arguments and misinterpret statutes or case law. Or they may fail to consider relevant legal principles that should have influenced the case outcome. Or they may fail to consider relevant evidence or misinterpret the significance of relevant evidence. If a Court of Appeal agrees that a legal error occurred during the trial, it may reverse or modify the lower court’s decision.

Procedural Errors

Procedural errors include mistakes, irregularities, or violations of procedural rules during trial proceedings can be grounds for an appeal. Common procedural errors include due process violations, improper admission or exclusion of evidence, and errors in jury instructions. Procedural errors provide a strong ground for appeal because they can prejudice a defendant’s rights and undermine the reliability of the trial’s outcome.

New Evidence

New evidence is evidence that was unknown or unavailable at the time of the original trial. It could be evidence not discovered during the pretrial investigation, withheld by the opposing party, or evidence that came to light after the verdict. The evidence must be genuinely new and material, meaning it has the potential to substantially impact the outcome of the case if accepted. An appellate court will only consider new evidence if it is significant and might have altered the outcome. The appellate court can order a retrial or modify the original decision if new evidence meets the threshold.

Inadequate Representation

The right to effective assistance of counsel is a fundamental constitutional right in Canada. It means that defendants have the right to be represented by a competent and diligent lawyer. If a defendant can demonstrate that they did not receive competent and effective representation from their lawyer and the deficiency had a detrimental impact on the outcome at trial, the appellate court may order a new trial, overturn the conviction, or modify the original decision.

Unreasonable Verdict

An unreasonable verdict is a verdict that is not supported by the evidence presented. In a trial, the jury or judge weighs the evidence presented by both parties and reaches a judgment based on their assessment of the facts and law. The verdict should be reasonable, meaning it’s supported by the evidence and the logical inferences drawn from the evidence. If the judgment is inconsistent with the weight of the evidence or based on insufficient evidence, it may provide grounds for an appeal. 

Miscarriage of Justice

Miscarriages of justice may result from judicial bias or trial misconduct. Judicial bias refers to situations where the judge exhibits a prejudice or partiality that could influence their decision and prevent the defendant from receiving a fair trial. Trial misconduct covers various forms of improper behaviour during the proceedings that may have prejudiced a defendant’s rights or compromised the integrity of the proceedings. If an appellate court finds there was a miscarriage of justice, it would likely order a new trial or modify the judgment to rectify the prejudice that happened during the original proceedings.

What Winning an Appeal Requires: Time, Money, and Experience

Winning an appeal requires significant resources, including time, money, and experience in appellate law. Appealing a court decision can be complex and demanding, and having the appropriate resources and specialized legal assistance is crucial for a successful appeal.

  • Time: The appeals process can be lengthy, often taking months or even years to resolve. Appellate courts have their schedules and caseloads, which can contribute to the time required for an appeal.
  • Legal expertise: Appellate law is a specialized area of practice that requires a deep understanding of the appellate process, legal research, and persuasive argumentation. Appellate lawyers have specific knowledge and skills in analyzing trial records, identifying errors of law, drafting appellate arguments, and presenting oral arguments in the appellate court. Having a lawyer with expertise in appellate law significantly increases the chances of a successful appeal.
  • Financial resources: Appeals can be costly, as they involve legal fees and disbursements such as court filing fees. The appellant must be prepared to bear these costs or seek financial assistance, such as through legal aid organizations.

Don’t Squander Your Second Chance

The specific rules and procedures governing appeals can be highly complex and demanding. Seeking the guidance of an experienced appellate lawyer is crucial to navigating the complexities of the appeal process and identifying the most promising grounds for appeal.

With over 35 years of litigation experience, Allan Rouben is a seasoned appellate lawyer who will advocate for your legal rights. Schedule a consultation today to explore your legal options.