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NC Appellate Attorneys – Standards of Review

This is a discussion concerning the appellate division. The initial division for most purposes is the trial division (district court or superior court). These terms pertain to North Carolina Court System. The trial division in the Federal Court is the District Court.

In the appellate division, which handles appeals of issues of law ruled upon at the trial level. The first level is the Court of Appeals, cases can be appealed next to the NC Supreme Court.

When cases are appealed there are 3 common standards of review. Standard of review is the amount of deference the appellate court gives to the rulings and orders of the lower court. In this legal review, the losing party appeals that ruling. This affects the thought process of the litigator and appellate attorney, including whether to appeal or not. Also the trial litigator must preserve the record and make certain objections and/or enter certain motions to insure a strong record on appeal or right to appeal.

The Common Standards of Review: (This is not exclusive)

1) Clear Error: this is a highly deferential standard for the trial judge. It is used when reviewing the trial judge’s findings of fact. The findings of fact need to be ‘clearly erroneous’. This is a difficult standard to overcome.

2) De Novo: a non-deferential standard. A new review. This is used when reviewing questions of law, eg. interpreting statutes and the common law (Case law). Appellate courts have the greater discretion to overrule the trial court with this standard.

3) Abuse of Discretion: a deferential standard of the trial court. Did the trial court abuse its disreetion in making its ruling.

Case precedent guides NC litigators and NC appellate attorneys in how determine the standard of review. There is strategy to preservation of the record and appealing.

The NC appellate attorneys at Hendrick Bryant have handled numerous appeals in the NC Appellate system and the US Fourth Circuit.

Call 336-723-7200 to speak with one of our North Carolina appellate attorneys about your case.


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