Constitutional Litigation – St. Louis Constitutional Appeals Attorney

What is a Constitutional Appeal?

Before you file your insurance coverage dispute appeal, you need to understand what can be appealed and how the appellate process works. During the pretrial and trial phases of your case, the judge will likely make several decisions regarding pretrial motions or trial objections that your trial attorney made. Every one of these decisions is appealable and can be reversed by an appellate court. Whenever an attorney files a motion or makes an objection, he or she is making a record of the issues that become preserved for appeal. Appealable issues include:

How is a Constitutional Appeal Different from a Trial?

Constitutional appeals are different from trials in many ways. When a trial occurs, the result is a jury or judge determining what they believe to be the facts in the case and then applying the law to those facts. When an appeal occurs, the result is a group of judges assessing whether the law was followed correctly at the trial court level. An appeal can review the conduct of government officials and the decisions of a judge on motions or objections. There is no option to have a new jury or a new trial at the appellate court level. Appellate courts have the power to affirm, reverse, or vacate the original outcome at the trial court level. An appellate court can also remand a case back to the trial court for further fact-finding proceedings if need be. Constitutional appeals are generally about public policy and the constitutionality of a law. During a constitutional appeal, appellate judges will seek to determine how the outcome of the case before them is affected by the Constitution. They will assess how the decision in the case will affect the public, in addition to how it will affect the case at hand.

Which Court Will Hear My Appeal?

The location and type of case that is being appealed will determine which appellate court has jurisdiction to decide on the case in Missouri. There are three appellate districts that exist in Missouri state court; they are the Eastern District, Western District, and Southern District. The courthouse for the Eastern District is in St. Louis, Western District is in Kansas City, and Southern District is in Springfield. Certain cases are not heard by the Missouri Court of Appeals and go straight to the Missouri Supreme Court under the Missouri Constitution. The five types of cases that go straight to the Missouri Supreme Court on appeal are cases that involve:

  • Questioning the validity of a United States law or treaty
  • Questioning the validity of a Missouri law or Constitutional provision
  • Questioning Missouri’s revenue laws
  • Challenging a state elected official’s right to hold office
  • Challenging a death penalty sentence.

If your case is not one that involves the above-listed topics, then your appeal will go to the Missouri Court of Appeals for determination. If your case is decided by the Missouri Court of Appeals, then it can be further appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court or United States Supreme Court in certain circumstances. Cases that end up in either the Missouri Supreme Court (on appeal from the appellate court) and the United States Supreme Court are chosen explicitly by the Supreme Court Justices. Unless your appeal must go directly to the Missouri Supreme Court from the trial court, your case will only be heard by the Missouri Supreme Court or United States Supreme Court if the case is granted certiorari. When a case is granted certiorari, then it has been accepted to be heard by the respective Supreme Court.

The Importance of Having an Experienced Appeals Attorney

Appeals are essentially won through legal research and writing. When an appeal is filed, the appellate court will expect a lengthy brief detailing what is being appealed and legal research to support each argument. It is important to have an experienced appeals attorney who focuses on appeals due to their familiarity with how appellate judges will interpret the law and the considerable time commitment that a well-written appeal requires. While your trial attorney may be fully capable of taking on your appeal, it is often a good idea to get a fresh set of eyes on your case to zero in on the most important issues. While oral arguments in appeals are important, they only occur after the appellate court has reviewed each side’s brief. Most judges have a pretty good idea of which way they are leaning before an oral argument takes place. An experienced appeals attorney can help put you in the winning position with clear legal writing and analysis.

John Reeves; Reeves Law

As an appellate specialist, John Reeves provides consulting services to trial attorneys about preserving matters for appeal and drafting dispositive motions. His practice also includes serving as defense counsel in civil matters, including constitutional matters (§1983 litigation), commercial law, personal injury matters, municipal law, employment discrimination, and insurance coverage disputes.

After serving as an Assistant Missouri Attorney General for over six years, John entered private practice in 2015, opening his own firm in 2019. He has personally authored over 250 appellate briefs and has conducted oral arguments in all three districts of the Missouri Court of Appeals, the Missouri Supreme Court, and the federal Eighth Circuit. In addition, Mr. Reeves has personally authored both certiorari petitions and applications for extraordinary relief before the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Reeves has also written numerous dispositive motions in both federal and state court.

In October 2019, Mr. Reeves co-founded the Missouri Bar’s Appellate Practice Committee, the first statewide organization in Missouri devoted to furthering professional development for attorneys in appellate matters. He presently serves as the committee’s co-chair.

Contact Reeves Law today to schedule an appointment to discuss your appeal or to have him sit in on your current trial and case.

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