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Trial End: Judgements and Appeals

TRIAL ENDThe end of a trial is not necessarily the be-all-and-end-all of the issue that has been tried. After JUDGMENT, or the decision by the court regarding the outcome of the case, other steps may be required, such as compensation for damages by the defendant or compensation for court and/or attorney fees by either party. In addition, a party dissatisfied with the outcome usually has some options for APPEALS. While it is very tempting to think that the judge has decided wrongly and want to appeal this is something that you should only do if you are absolutely certain that the judge has done something wrong legally. If your plan is to just reargue the case to an appeals court then you will be wasting your time and money because that is not the function of the appeals court.


A judgment is the final, formal decision made by the court at the end of a trial. The court will file an "entry of judgment" so that the final decision is recorded. At the same time, the court may issue certain accompanying court orders, which are authorizations for action by a party or parties.

Some examples of orders in various types of cases include the following:

  • Order to Pay Damages: when a plaintiff seeking money damages prevails at trial, the defendant will be required to compensate the plaintiff for the costs established during the trial; the court may require payment in a lump sum or periodic payments on a regular schedule over a period of time
  • Child Custody Order/Visitation Order: how parents of a child are to divide the custody of that child, or how often and for what duration a non-custodial parent can visit with a child; custody orders and visitation can be modified only upon court approval by filing a Motion to Modify
  • Personal Protection Order: personal protection orders (often restraining orders) require a person to do something or refrain from doing something in an effort to protect the other party; this type of order is commonly issued against defendants to prevent them from harming a plaintiff, entering a plaintiff’s property, contacting a plaintiff, etc.

Many other types of orders may be issued. Note: common in business are what are known as "cease and desist orders" or demands to refrain from conducting business in some way that is adverse to another business. These are NOT legal orders, and are not enforceable in court: they are merely threats, and should not be considered formal court determinations.


A party who is dissatisfied with a judgment entered by the court may continue to argue one's side by filing appeals. Appeals are only available upon issuance of a FINAL judgment; if a court has entered an interim judgment but has not reached a formal end to the case, an appeal is premature, since things could still change between that point and the final conclusion of the matter.

An appeal is filed with a higher court. For example, a decision made in a trial court would be appealed to an intermediate court (in many states, this is a Court of Appeals or Superior Court); a further appeal may be made to a Supreme Court. A non-court trial, such as an agency issue that is originally tried before an Administrative Law Judge, may have a different appeals process. Jurisdictions differ in their system of appeals, so it is important to familiarize oneself with the appropriate system and what the process is for filing appeals.

The party filing the appeal is called the APPELLANT, and the party against whom the appeal is filed is referred to as the APPELLEE, or respondent. Generally, the party who was unsuccessful at trial will be the appellant, although in some cases the party victorious at file may file an appeal if he/she is dissatisfied with the resolution (for example, views the award of damages as inadequate).

To file an appeal, the appellant must file a Notice of Appeal with the appropriate court, with copies provided to the opposition party. An appeal filing must include a record of the handling of the case in a lower court. The trial record allows appellate judges, who will not have been present at trial to become informed about what the trial revealed without having to re-hear all evidence.

Depending on the subject matter of the case and on the jurisdiction in which the appeal is heard, the standard of review of the lower-court decision may vary. Following are some examples of the most commonly-applied standards of review:

  • Abuse of Discretion: judgment reversed or altered only if the lower court went beyond the scope of its power
  • Clearly Erroneous: judgment reversed or altered only if the judgment of the lower court is clearly against the weight of the evidence in the trial record
  • De Novo:appeals court issues a new decision, rather than simply evaluating the appropriateness of the judgment of the lower court

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