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Law Office of Lori Elaine Laird PLLC

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Appellate Practice

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Texas Court of Appeal Lawyers


The right to a trial by jury is one of the cornerstones of our justice system. However, trial courts are not perfect — they can and do make serious mistakes. That is where the right to an appeal may be the answer to a bad verdict. Additionally, some cases present an issue to be decided that is novel- something that perhaps isn't well settled law or even an undecided area of the law altogether. So regardless of what a judge or jury decides the loser may have grounds to file an appeal. In such cases, even if you win at the trial level you may find yourself on the other side of an appeal.

Appellate litigation differs from trial litigation. There are a different set of rules, different courts and a different process than what you experienced at trial. In order to increase your opportunity of success on appeal, you need a lawyer with an understanding of appellate practice and procedure. You want a skilled attorney who has experience with both brief writing and oral argument. Appeals can be a daunting task. That is why you need a highly skilled attorney to increase your likelihood of success.

When You Need a Texas Appeals Attorney

How do you know if you need an appellate lawyer? You might need an appeals attorney if:

Your trial lawyer isn’t an appellate attorney or isn’t comfortable writing appellate briefs in Texas

If you have recently lost a trial in Texas

You want to determine if your case may be perfected for appeal in Texas

You want to file a writ of habeas corpus.

The appeal process can seem overwhelming. There are strict time limits for the filing of a notice of appeal, which is the beginning of the appeal process. It is the defendant’s responsibility to make certain the notice of appeal is filed in a timely manner. As a Houston criminal appeals attorney, I can help you meet these needs. Call today for a confidential consultation. 832-699-1966

VERY CRITICAL TIME LIMITS EXIST IN APPELLATE CASES


Trial Court


When you take a case to trial, you work to prove that your case is right or just to either a judge or jury.  Part of this process is the presentation of evidence often in the form of testimony, documents or tangible items.  You also have the right to confront accusers or people testifying against you through cross examination.  Our trial process is known as the adversary system where each attorney tries to win for the side they represent.  It is the job of the trial attorney to work to protect their client's rights to a fair trial by making objections when the opposing party attempts to do something improper or contrary to the rules of civil procedure or evidence.  Lawyers often object to hearsay evidence or evidence that is highly prejudicial or unreliable.

The jury is known as the “trier of fact” meaning that they make the final decision at the trial—not the judge.  However, the trial judge is the gatekeeper of the evidence presented and it is his or her obligation to assure that the evidence or testimony complies with the rules before allowing it to be admitted.  Additionally, the judge plays a vital role in that he or she instructs the jury on the law in the case.  The jury then applies the facts of the case they learned during trial to the law as they were instructed it to be in order to arrive at a verdict.

To be a good trial attorney, the lawyer must be a skilled advocate who investigates and prepares their case for trial.  The lawyer must present the relevant evidence that will support their case and be ever vigilant to keep out objectionable evidence that would cause their client to suffer prejudice by the trier of fact.  This adversarial process assumes that the judge will make all of the correct rulings on objections regarding the admissibility of evidence or testimony and that the jury will correctly apply the law to the facts.  But as we all know, while this is a great theory, it often fails in practical application.

The Court of Appeals Justices on the court of appeals do not act as “new” judges hearing the case for the first time.  Nor do they re-decide a verdict made by a jury.  The appellate court reviews the judgment of the trial court to ensure that the underlying case was handled fairly and that the judgment is reliable.  The court reviews the proceedings to assure that the litigants in the trial court received a fair trial or hearing in their case.

The appellate court reviews the trial record to determine if there was sufficient evidence to support the judgment or verdict.  The appellate record, among other things, includes the transcript from the court reporter, including any documents filed by the attorneys during trial, the exhibits and evidence that was introduced by the parties, and the written record as taken down by the court reporter showing what was said in the courtroom by the witnesses, the attorneys, the parties and the judge.  The appellate court, in their review, is looking to determine if there was any evidence to support the judgment or verdict in the case.

In order for the court to make this review, the attorneys must prepare a brief (a legal document identifying the problems or mistakes made by the trial court and how those mistakes affected the outcome of the trial).  The appellate court then determines if the attorneys and the judge or jury acted in a manner that resulted in a reliable verdict.  The problems must be identified by the attorneys in the brief and must also state how those problems affected the outcome of the trial.  Another difference in the appellate court—instead of one judge acting as the gatekeeper of the process there is a panel, consisting of multiple justices, who review the appeal.  If you appeal to a higher authority, a court of higher jurisdiction, you will generally have more justices on a panel hearing the appeal- meaning if you work your way up to the Supreme Court- you will have more justices reviewing the decision than at the lower level.

Types of Appeals


Appeals apply to both civil and criminal cases.  If a trial ruling negatively affects you it can be examined to see if an appeal needs to be filed.  To be successful with an appeal in Texas, you will want a Texas appellate lawyer to handle your appeal—a lawyer who is familiar with our state specific rules.  Call our Houston firm today to visit with a Texas appellate lawyer at 832-699-1966.   There are many reasons you may want to file an appeal in a case:  if you or someone you love was wrongfully convicted of a crime, if you received a judgment in a civil case you believe to be unfair, if your civil rights were violated during the course of your criminal proceedings, or if evidence that should have been excluded from your trial was admitted into

Lori Elaine Laird is a polished appellate advocate.  She was formerly an intern at the First Court of Appeals—Houston.  Unlike many appellate lawyers, however, Lori also has extensive experience as a trial lawyer.  That experience of taking many jury trials to verdict makes her very effective at identifying appealable issues that occurred at trial.  Since Lori's experience is not limited solely to criminal issues she is equally effective with civil case and family law appeals.  .

Lori can handle an appeal in any Texas state court but is also admitted to United States Southern District of Texas (Federal Court) and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

If you or someone you love has been convicted of a crime in Texas state or federal court you should consider hiring our firm to examine the record, determine what occurred and give you an objective opinion regarding the strength of any potential appeal.  Additionally, we can help you appeal or defend a civil judgment or family law case.  Call our Houston office today for a confidential consultation at 832-699-1966 or complete a client contact form to have one of our attorneys contact you.

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