Appellate Jurisdiction

Definition

Appellate jurisdiction refers to the power of a court to hear appeals from lower courts.  

Overview

Appellate jurisdiction includes the power to reverse or modify the the lower court's decision. Appellate jurisdiction exists for both civil law and criminal law

In an appellate case, the party that appealed the lower court's decision is called the appellate, and the other party is the appellee

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: 

  1. Appeal as A Matter of Right
    1. 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. 
  2. Discretionary Appeal
    1. A discretionary appeal refers to a appellate court's discretion to decide whether it chooses to accept a party's appeal from a lower court decision.
    2. Typically for a discretionary appeal, the appellate party must file a writ of certiorari with the appellate court

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.  

The federal court system's appellate procedure is governed by the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, which is contained within Title 28 of the United States Code

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.   

Further Reading

For more on appellate jurisdiction, see this Florida State University Law Review article, this Harvard Law Review article, and this American Bar Association article.