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Appellate Blog

Appellate Law Blog

Chamberlain Hrdlicka's Appellate Blog covers a cross-section of issues of interest to businesses and individuals involved in litigation, trial and appellate lawyers, as well as judges.

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What Options Exist When Your Trial Goes Bad Unexpectedly? Understanding the Appeal Process in Texas Courts

The majority of lawsuits settle before the case goes to trial. There’s a reason for that. It can be years before a lawsuit is scheduled for trial, the outcome is unpredictable, and the process can be expensive, making an out-of-court settlement attractive.

But often, the parties are unable to reach a settlement because they view the law, the facts, and the chances of obtaining a successful verdict - however they may define it - differently. When the gap between the parties’ respective positions is too large to close, proceeding to trial may become more palatable and, indeed, preferable. But what if you come out on the losing end? Can anything be done? The answer is, yes – you can appeal and  request that a higher court reviews a lower court’s decision.

Texas’ civil justice system provides fourteen intermediate appellate courts, two of which are in Houston, and a supreme court. Appeals to the intermediate appellate courts are a matter of right, meaning those courts must address the merits of a properly–filed and timely appeal. Their primary function is to carefully review and correct errors committed during a lower court trial that are brought to their attention.

It is important to note, that the appeals are based upon the “record” - a written transcript of given testimonies, exhibits and other documents filed during the initial trial – as well as written and oral arguments presented by appellate lawyers. Appellate courts do not hear witnesses or receive testimonies when reviewing cases and cannot consider anything that was not presented to the trial court. That is why it is of utmost importance to always prepare the case with a possibility of an appeal in mind and to present sufficient evidence in the lower court to be able to persuade the appellate court to rule in your favor if needed.

If either party is not satisfied with the outcome of an appellate case, it may appeal it further to the court of last resort. In Texas, the Texas Supreme Court hears civil appeals. Much like the United States Supreme Court, Texas Supreme Court has the discretion to pick and choose which cases it will accept.

Deciding whether to appeal should involve consultation with an experienced appellate attorney, who can identify errors made during the initial, lower court trial and provide advice on the likelihood that the judgment may be reversed.

  • Steven J. Knight

    Steve Knight is a Shareholder in the Houston Litigation group and is Co-Chair of the Appellate Law section.

    Throughout his career, Mr. Knight has successfully represented clients at every phase of the appellate process, from ...