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Sunday, October 16, 2011

The jury was wrong in finding against my client - New York Appeals Issues

An oft used scene in courtroom dramas has a losing lawyer standing on the steps of the courthouse pledging to appeal the jury's verdict. This lawyer is unhappy with the jury's findings and is anxious to appeal to a higher court. This is perhaps the greatest departure from real life versus television litigation. An appellate court will often defer to a jury's findings of fact and limit itself to a review of the law. Many lawyers and litigants do not fully capture the meaning of this all important statement. A trial is an accumulation of rulings by a judge that govern the substance and the manner in which facts are delivered to a fact finder. An appellate court can review every one of those rulings, but will not for instance; review whether a jury happened to find an incredible witness credible. An appellate court will review whether a jury should have heard or seen evidence and may even decide whether that impacted the jury, but is not interested in disturbing the jury's approach to that evidence.

When an appeal is taken, it is, more often than not, limited to a review of the trial judge's decisions and not a jury's findings.

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