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What is the Difference Between the Superior Court and the Appellate Court?

Aside from the California State Supreme Court, California has two levels of state court: trial (or superior) courts and appellate courts. As your case winds through the state court system, you should understand the nature and function of each type of state court. This information can assist you in knowing what to expect when your legal case is pending in each type of court and how and when the court will resolve your case.

For more information about your legal rights in superior and appellate court cases, you can consult a civil litigation lawyer or a civil appellate attorney from Evans Kingsbury LLP. We stand ready to represent your interests before the court and assist you in resolving your civil legal issues.

Superior Court

California has 58 superior courts, one in each county. Some larger counties may have branches in different cities, but those courthouses are all part of one superior court for that county. Voters for each county elect superior court judges on a non-partisan basis for six years. If there is a vacancy, the Governor appoints a replacement until the next election.

    Superior or trial courts are courts where a judge or a jury hears evidence and decides cases. The job of the judge or the jury is to apply the law to the facts of the case and reach a decision based on that analysis. According to the California Courts: Judicial Branch of California, the types of cases that superior courts handle include the following:
  • • All civil cases, including family law and probate cases;
  • • All criminal cases, including felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic tickets;
  • • Small claims cases and appeals of those cases;
  • • Appeals of civil cases that involve $25,000 or less;
  • • Appeals of infractions or traffic ticket cases and misdemeanors.

Appellate Court

Appellate courts review decisions by superior courts that involve family law, probate, juvenile matters, felony criminal offenses, and civil cases worth more than $25,000. These courts do not hold new trials in cases that parties appeal. Instead, the appellate courts review the records in the trial court cases to determine if legal errors occurred and, if so, if that error affected the outcome of the trial court’s decision.

Courts of Appeal

There are six Courts of Appeal, each of which covers several counties. The district or division that each Court of Appeal covers has a presiding justice and two or more associate justices. The Governor appoints all appellate justices, and the Commission on Judicial Appointments confirms the appointment of justices.

California Supreme Court

The California Supreme Court is the highest state court. Like the Courts of Appeals, the California Supreme Court does not hold a new trial. This court reviews decisions made by the Courts of Appeals in cases of statewide importance or where there is a conflict in decisions made by the Courts of Appeal. When the Supreme Court decides a case, all courts in the state must follow that decision.

    Additionally, the Supreme Court hears a few kinds of cases that go directly to it; these cases do not first go to the Courts of Appeals. These cases include:
  • • Death penalty cases; and
  • • Disciplinary cases involving judges.

The California Supreme Court consists of seven judges or justices, including one Chief Justice and six associate justices. At least four justices must agree to decide each case. The Governor appoints each justice, and the Commission on Judicial Appointments confirms the appointment of justices. The public then confirms the justice at the next general election for a term of 12 years.

Contact a California Civil Litigation Attorney or Appellate Attorney Today

Contact a California Civil Litigation Attorney or Appellate Attorney Today

We offer legal representation to clients in civil litigation, family law cases, and civil appeals. Whether you need a California civil litigation attorney or a civil appeals lawyer, Evans Kingsbury LLP can help. Call our offices today at (707) 596-6090 or visit us online to learn more about the legal services that we can provide you.

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