This is a question I get often. If you are the appellee – the party defending the trial court’s judgment – the answer is simple. If you win, the appeals court will simply “affirm,” or uphold, the trial court’s judgment.
But what if you are the appellant, or the party appealing? Generally, in any type of case, there are two options available to the court when the appealing party wins. The court may either “reverse and remand” or “reverse and render.” Both of these outcomes mean overturning the trial court’s judgment, but their effects are quite different. I’ll explain.
First, when the appeals court “reverses and remands” the case, this means there will be further proceedings in the trial court. The most typical example is when the appeals court reverses and remands for a new trial, which is relatively common in both civil and criminal cases. Generally, new trials are granted based on certain constitutional rights violations or egregious evidentiary errors. Another type of remand available in certain cases is when the appeals court finds the judgment is not adequately supported, and remands the case for additional findings by the trial court.
You might be wondering, if the case is remanded, will the same judge that originally heard the case preside over the new proceedings? The answer is generally yes, which might sound discouraging. But quite often, the appeal completely changes the case. By and large, trial judges hate getting overturned on appeal. When the appellate court tells them they are wrong, trial judges are more likely to give the case extremely careful attention. And, while it’s not always true, often the appellate court’s ruling can change the trial judge’s view of the case. Winning on appeal can also breathe new life into the case and create a much-needed momentum shift.
Second, when the appeals court “reverses and renders,” this means the appellate court actually decides the outcome rather than sending the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. This, of course, is typically better than remand.
For example, in a civil case, perhaps a jury awarded a half-million-dollar verdict. If the judgment debtor appeals, the appellate court could find the case was barred by the statute of limitations. If that’s the case, the appellate court will render a judgment dismissing the case and nullifying the jury’s verdict. For the party who appealed in this scenario, this result is obviously a home run.
As another example, in a criminal case, if the appeals court finds the prosecution didn’t present enough proof at the trial, the court will render a judgment of acquittal. This wipes away the conviction and sentence, and retrial would be barred by double jeopardy. Obviously, this too is the ideal outcome for the party who appealed.
Whether rendering is possible, though, depends on the type of error being appealed. Generally, you can ask the court to render if you are raising the sufficiency of the evidence or a legal issue the court can decide “as a matter of law,” as opposed to a factual determination.
Usually you need an attorney’s help to determine if rendering or remanding would be an appropriate remedy in your case.
This is something I always discuss with my appeal clients. Render-versus-remand is always a good discussion to have, whether you’re the party appealing or defending. Even if you’re the party defending, you should understand all the possible outcomes and how likely they are to occur. If you’re looking for an appeal lawyer, I handle a wide range of appeal matters and would be happy to discuss the possible outcomes with you. I do my best to always give clients my honest and frank opinion on the prospects of winning their appeal. I can be reached at (601) 827-3031.