The US legal system is one of the most complex in the world. It serves a huge population, it changes on a state-by-state basis and in many of those states the law of capital punishment exists. All of this creates a system that is far more intricate than any other system in the world.
And when you have anything that complex and that big, you’re always going to make mistakes. In a recent article we covered the question of How Many People Have Been Wrongly Executed, and in this article we’ll look at the number of pardons and successful appeals that occur every year.
How Many Appeals Result in Reversals?
You could be forgiven for thinking that a appeal was a long shot. After all, the courts have made up their mind. But that’s far from the case and in 2015 9% of all cases were reversed.
Of course, this includes all kinds of appeals and not just criminal ones. In fact, criminal appeals accounted for fewer than one-third of all appeals, followed by prisoner petitions, which accounted for just over one-quarter. The rest can include administrative issues and bankruptcy.
Private and civil matters have the highest rate of reversal at between 10% and 15%, while prisoner petitions have the lowest, with an average of 3.5% (although these were as high as 7.6% in 2011). Bankruptcy typically has a 10% reversal rate, but in 2015 this was as high as 24.4%, which means that nearly a quarter of all cases were reversed by the Courts of Appeals.
Every year between 50,000 and 60,000 appeals are filed through these courts, which means that between 5,000 and 6,000 result in a successful claim. That is a significant number of people who get the vindication they have been looking for, so rather than dismissing this process as pointless on the belief that it will not result in the outcome that you seek, just take a look at those stats and that should be enough to give you the confident you need to get through this process. And that’s just as well, because it’s not an easy, or cheap, process.
How to Appeal
The US judicial system has a Courts of Appeals, also known as appellate courts. There are thirteen of these across the country and if you want to go through the process in one of them then you will need to hire an appellate law firm to help you.
That’s pretty much it. The rest is paperwork and time, and usually there are great amounts of both. It can also be a costly process because lawyers are paid for their time and there will be a lot of that used. But you can find a good lawyer with a respectable rate and a desire to help you and you should be able to avoid a high expense.