In order for an appellate court to hear a case, a party must typically file an appeal, in which it contests the decision of a lower court. There are typically two types of appeals:
- Appeal as A Matter of Right
- An appeal as a matter of right refers to a party's right to appeal a lower court's decision, without needing approval from any court.
- Discretionary Appeal
Federal Court System
In the federal court system, the circuit courts have appellate jurisdiction over the cases of the district courts, and the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over the decisions of the circuit courts.
State Court Systems
Each state has its own state court system. While the names of the courts differ from state to state, each state's system allows for appellate jurisdiction of some kind. However, each state, typically by statute, determines whether its appellate jurisdiction is based on appeals as a matter of right, discretion appeals, or a combination of of the two. Most states extend appeals as a matter of right to all appeals from trial cases.
States may also choose to differentiate between civil appellate jurisdiction and criminal appellate jurisdiction. For example, the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure Rule 9.140 creates special rules for appeals of criminal cases.