You finally had your day in court. You put on your case,
told the judge everything you wanted to, put in all your
evidence, and everything was obviously in your favor.
But for some reason beyond understanding, the judge
decided against you. Even if you had a lawyer this may
If you are unhappy with the result of your court case, you
can (in most instances) appeal it. Although it is easy to
note an appeal, and although you are allowed to represent
yourself in an appeal, you will find it difficult to do the
appeal without a lawyer.
For one thing, there are a number of rules governing how
and when an appeal done. These rules require certain
things to be done within certain periods of time, and even
have requirements for the size of the print
of your brief (you will generally be required to file a
brief), and the color of the paper on its cover.
Many people start their own appeal, only to have it
dismissed for failure to follow the rules.
In addition to technical and formal requirements, an
appeal (with the exception of an appeal where you are
given a new trial) is "on the record." This means that you
are not allowed to put on any evidence, or to tell the
appellate court any facts that were not presented at the
trial. You may only show the court the record from the
trial, which includes the transcript and the papers or
things put into evidence, and make legal argument as to
why the decision below was wrong.
And it's much more complicated than that. For example,
to have the court decide an issue, it has to have been
properly preserved on the record (which is one reason
you need a lawyer to do the trial in the first instance).
This means that you needed to have objected at the trial.
So, if someone puts evidence into the record at the trial
that is hearsay, you can't appeal on that basis unless you
objected at the trial.
And you have to convince the court that the judge below
was clearly erroneous, not simply that another person
might have come to a different conclusion.
The most difficult part of an appeal on the record,
however, is constructing a brief showing the court why the
decision of the trial court should be reversed. This
requires narrowing of issues, proper presentation of the
facts and the law, and construction of a coherent argument.
It requires finding the law, which is usually in the form of
cases that support your position. These are the things
lawyers are trained to do.
Willis & Henderson, P.A., has experience appealing
cases and making argument before the appellate court.
Below is an example of an appellate brief and the
resulting court opinion in a case argued by Michael
State v. Stoddard. This case was an appeal of the circuit
court's denial of a petition for expungement of a criminal
record. It is an example of a case where no matter how
clear the law, the judge does not care to listen to or fairly
consider counsel's argument. Mr. Henderson appealed
this case to the Court of Special Appeals, and the Court of
Appeals, on its own motion, took the case up and heard
it, skipping the intermediate step. The Court of Appeals
reversed the circuit court, and remanded the case back to
the court with instructions to expunge the applicable
Opinion of the Court
Willis & Henderson, P.A.
Attorneys at Law
3290 North Ridge Road
Ellicott City, MD 21043