What is an appeal?
If you lose a case in the circuit court, you can appeal the case to the appellate court. The appellate court will then review the case and decide whether the circuit court made a mistake. The appellate court will not give you a new trial; they will just take another look at what happened in the original trial.
If the appellate court does not change the decision of the circuit court, a person can then appeal to the Illinois supreme court. Unlike the appellate court, the Illinois supreme court gets to select which appeals it will hear, and only a small number of cases are heard. So, just because someone appeals to the Illinois supreme court, this does not mean the case will be heard.
Decisions that can be appealed
Usually, there has to be a final judgment in your case to be able to appeal. A final judgment means that the judge or jury has made some decision and the case is over. In some very rare cases, you can appeal before the case is over.
You cannot appeal just because you are not happy with the result in the circuit court. You need some other good reason for the appeal. Some examples of reasons for appealing include:
- The evidence in the case did not support the verdict;
- The trial was unfair; or
- The judge made legal or factual errors.
What happens in the appellate court
The appellate court works very differently than the circuit court. When you bring a case to the appellate court, you do not get a trial. Also, instead of having one judge hear the case, a panel of three judges will hear your argument and make a decision. There are no juries in the appellate court. A vote of two out of the three judges will decide the case.
Most things in the appellate court are done on paper. The judges will review the records and transcripts from the circuit court. Both sides also write legal briefs arguing their case. Sometimes there will be a short oral argument. Both sides get to come in and argue their cases in front of the judges, and the judges ask questions.
After all of this is complete, the appellate court will send out its decision in writing.
Process for appealing a case
The appeals process is very complicated, and there are a lot of rules to follow. If you are involved in a case and think you want to appeal, you should talk to a lawyer.
If you want to appeal a circuit court decision, you have 30 days after the final judgment to file a Notice of Appeal with the appellate court. This notice states what decision you are appealing and what you want to happen. You also have to take certain steps to let the other people involved in the case know that you are appealing.
- Your Notice of Appeal must contain:
- The court you are appealing to. For example, the appellate court of Illinois for the second judicial district;
- The court you are appealing from. For example, the circuit court of the 19th judicial circuit, Lake County;
- The name and number assigned to the case by the circuit court;
- Who is filing the appeal (the appellant) and who will be responding to the appeal (the appellee);
- What orders of the circuit court you are appealing from and the dates they were entered;
- What you want the appellate court to do. For example, reverse the decision of the circuit court; and
- Your address and a telephone number where you can be reached during the day.
File the Notice of Appeal with the circuit clerk where your case was heard.
Effective July 1, 2017, all filing in civil cases is required to be done electronically in the Supreme Court and five districts of the Appellate Court.
For more information on the appeals process, view this printable guide.
What the appellate court can do when it decides a case
There are four different decisions that the appellate court can make:
- Affirm: The appellate court agrees with the decision of the circuit court. If you appeal a case, and the appellate court affirms, you have lost your appeal.
- Remand: The appellate court is requesting that the circuit court do something more. Sometimes when the appellate court remands a case, it means a person gets to do the trial over again in the circuit court.
- Reverse: The appellate court disagrees with what happened in the circuit court, and it is undoing the decision.
- Reverse and remand: The appellate court disagrees with what happened in the circuit court, and the case has to be sent back to be corrected.
If you don't agree with the decision of the appellate court
If you do not agree with the decision of the appellate court, you can try to bring your case to the Illinois supreme court. This process is very complicated, and there are a lot of rules to follow. You should talk to a lawyer if you think you want to appeal a case to the Illinois supreme court.
There is no guarantee that the supreme court will review a case. The supreme court gets to select which cases it will review. If the supreme court decides not to review a case, what the appellate court decision is final.
Updated: June 2017