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What Are Appellate Courts? How They Work, Functions, and Example

Photo: Appellate Courts Photo: Appellate Courts

What Are Appellate Courts? How They Work, Functions, and Example

The American judicial system’s appellate courts also called the Court of Appeals, are in charge of hearing and examining appeals from matters already handled at the trial level or in another lower court.

When a person or entity, such as a business, loses a case in a trial-level court or another lower court, they can appeal to an appellate court to reexamine the judgment. The lower decision could be overturned if the appeal has merit. Appellate courts are present at both the state and federal levels but do not have juries.

Workings of Appellate Courts

To assess whether the lower court appropriately applied the law, appellate courts evaluate its judgments. They are a component of the legal system that gives those who have judgments rendered against them the chance to have their case reviewed.

A negative verdict against a publicly listed business would probably result in a decline in share price, but an appeal might reverse this earlier decision. If an appeal is granted, the stock price often increases.

Courts review the conclusions and evidence from the lower court at the appellate level and then decide if there is enough evidence to uphold the lower court’s decision. The appellate court will also decide whether the trial or lower court properly applied the legislation.

The U.S. Supreme Court, the highest appellate court in the country, only considers cases of significant weight and significance.

Supreme Courts against Appellate Courts

Compared to appellate courts, supreme courts often have greater authority and scope. Although several states have supreme courts or courts of last resort, the United States Supreme Court is the country’s highest court.

Supreme courts review decisions from appeals courts. There are 13 appellate courts at the federal level, including one for the Federal Circuit and 12 district appellate courts. To lessen the strain on the state Supreme Court, several jurisdictions have intermediate appellate courts that act as appeals courts.

Example of an Appellate Court Decision In the summer of 2020, shares of the ride-sharing firms Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. increased after an appellate court approved a postponement of the enforcement of a new California law that mandates the reclassification of many so-called “gig workers,” including drivers for ride-share firms. According to CNBC, “Appeals court grants Uber and Lyft a reprieve following threats to shut down in California.” (Aug. 20, 2020) on Jan. 29, 2021.

In this case, the appellate court determined that a prior decision from a lower California court upholding the validity or constitutionality of the state employment legislation would be suspended pending the outcome of the appeal and the appellate court’s consideration of the merits of the appeal.

Investor expectations that Uber and Lyft may get away with without providing drivers access to benefit plans or workers’ compensation coverage were quickly crushed. Uber and Lyft must treat their California drivers as employees, not independent contractors.

They must pay them the wages and benefits to which they are entitled under state labor law, according to a decision made by the California First District Court of Appeals in October 2020. As a result, the law is now legally binding and enforceable. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Uber and Lyft’s appeal in February 2021 and upheld the lower court’s ruling. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom followed suit.


  • Appeals from matters that have previously been heard and decided in lower courts are heard and reviewed by appellate courts.
  • Appellate courts are available for both state- and federal-level cases. However, they lack a jury of one’s peers and instead consist of a committee of judges (often referred to as justices).
  • There are 13 federal appeals courts, and each state has its system of appeals courts, some of which have intermediate appellate courts.

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