Legal Guide

Can A Judge’s Decision Be Appealed?

If you’ve been handed a judgement that you’re not ready to accept, you may be wondering what your options are. A judge’s decision can be appealed throughout a designated process in which the ruling is reviewed and may be reversed, changed, or set for a retrial. Although judges hold massive responsibility in making serious determinations regarding people's lives, they are capable of mistakes, too. If you can prove that a judge has made a factual or legal error in their decision, then you have grounds for an appeal.

What Are, or Are Not, Grounds to Appeal?

Appeals are a serious matter that could challenge the integrity of the court in question. Different countries have their own jurisdiction, and many legal systems have a designated Court of Appeal, such as Canada. However, not every case will be heard.

Before you start getting the paperwork together, you must seriously consider not only whether you have genuine grounds for an appeal, but also whether you can prove this to the court. Even if you believe that the judge has made the wrong decision based on evidence already presented, that is not enough to pursue an appeal. You must be able to demonstrate that the judge has made an error - this is an objective determination. Remember: the idea is not to have the court review your evidence again to determine the validity of a judge’s decision. The purpose of an appeal is to determine whether or not a serious error has been made in accordance with the law.  

When it comes to court, more often than not, at least one party will be unhappy with the decision. If all parties were able to come to a resolution themselves, then the court process wouldn’t be necessary. As such, the grounds for an appeal are usually very strict - an appeal cannot be made simply because one of the parties affected believes it to be the wrong decision. In fact, if you attempt to appeal a decision on this basis, you are likely to be wasting your time as well as hundreds of dollars in fees. In most cases, you do not have an inherent right to appeal a decision made by a judge; you must ask to file an appeal and be granted this approval by the court. 

Examples of Grounds for an Appeal

Here are some general examples of grounds for an appeal. Please seek legal advice for your own case, as these are not at all specific and are unlikely to address the details necessary in determining whether or not you have grounds to appeal.

1.   The Judge Made an Error of Fact or Law

The case of a judge making a factual or legal error in their decision is a good reason to seek an appeal. While this does happen, it does not happen often, as this can seriously affect a judge’s career and the integrity of the jurisdiction.

Examples of an error in law can range from a judge finding facts in the absence of evidence to an assessment of evidence based on an incorrect legal principle. Finding and demonstrating grounds for an appeal, in this case, can be extremely nuanced, which is why it is recommended that you speak with someone who is familiar with both the law and the procedures of the court.

2.   Miscarriage of Justice

A miscarriage of justice is generally defined as a failure by a judicial system to attain the ends of justice, especially when an innocent person is wrongly convicted. In these cases, a new trial will likely be ordered. Generally, a miscarriage of justice must be determined as a grossly unfair outcome to a situation due to something like a lack of evidence essential to the case, which leads us to our next example.

3.   Improper Admissions or Exclusions of Evidence

Another common reason to appeal surrounds the topic of evidence. If improper or false evidence was provided, this can affect the judge's ability to make a legally correct decision. If evidence was excluded during your court proceedings, this could also be a reasonable grounds to seek a reevaluation of the ruling.

An Appeal is Not Another Trial

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that regardless of what your grounds are for seeking an appeal, this process is not another trial. The court is not under the obligation to review all evidence that was previously submitted and there are generally much stricter timelines and procedures. Always proceed with caution when seeking an appeal, and do your best to get objective advice from a reputable lawyer.

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