You may have heard the terms “criminal appeals attorney” and “litigation lawyer” before, but perhaps you’re unsure what each one means. As an experienced criminal appeal lawyer, John Kirby sheds light on both of these legal terms below.

What They Are

Criminal appeal

A criminal appeal is a right possessed by the defendant in a criminal case. After his trial, if the defendant feels that the verdict/outcome was unfair, he can contest his conviction in a formal appeals court. The impetus for this appeal is the defendant’s belief that a serious error was made during his trial; an error that prevented him from receiving a more accurate judgement.

It’s important to note that a defendant cannot appeal a decision simply because he’s unhappy with the trial’s outcome. Thus, though every defendant has the right to an appeal, not every appeal is allowed to proceed. Also, a criminal appeal does not equate to an opportunity for reevaluation of witness testimonials or evidence. A criminal appeal’s sole focus is to assess the procedure and protocol of the hearing in accordance with the written statements furnished by the appealing party.

The criminal appeal process begins with the defendant filing a “Notice of Appeal”: a document that serves as the official signal for the criminal appeal process to begin. Though the rules vary from state to state, most states set a deadline of 10 days after the initial conviction/sentencing for filing a criminal appeal. The appeals process itself is slow, and it doesn’t take the shape of a typical “courtroom structure”. In fact, the only person who attends the hearing is the criminal appeal lawyer who presided over the initial case. There are no defendants, witnesses, etc.

The defendant’s attorney (a.k.a. criminal appeals attorney) files a written brief, the prosecution files a rebutting brief, and an appeals court considers both. The court will stipulate whether it wishes to hear oral arguments after the briefs are considered. The process culminates with a judge presenting a written statement of the court’s opinion. Three outcomes are possible: the original trial’s verdict will be upheld or reversed, or the case will be remanded back to the lower court, where the appeals court’s questions/concerns must be addressed.  Finding a good criminal appeals attorney will be most helpful for the defendants.


Litigation is the process by which a dispute is resolved via the filing or answering of a complaint in the public court system. Any settlement negotiations are predicated on the nature of the complaint and the probable outcome for each side, as determined by a judge. Litigation begins with the plaintiff filing a complaint with the Clerk of the Court. If a settlement can’t be reached, a trial is scheduled. Before the trial commences, the process of disclosure and discovery is undertaken, and motions are filed. Then the trial begins, a judge hears arguments from both sides, and the court renders a decision. After the decision, the defendant can file an appeal.  The defendant should contact a litigation lawyer to discuss their case as soon as possible.

Why You Need a Criminal Appeals Attorney or Litigation Lawyer

Whether you are a plaintiff or a defendant in an upcoming litigation, or you’re a defendant who plans on filing an appeal to a judgement already rendered, you need an attorney by your side to support you in navigating what is often a complex process. Take advantage of the services provided by one of the leading law firms in San Diego and contact John Kirby Law today.