Mr. Kuniansky has handled dozens of appeals before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Texas Court of Appeals and Georgia Court of Appeals. It is important to understand what an appeal is, and what an appeal is not. An appeal is not a higher court deciding guilt or innocence all over again. In fact, an appeals court hears no evidence. Rather, an appeals court determines whether the trial court judge made a serious error in a ruling that resulted in the Defendant receiving an unfair trial.
What does an appellate lawyer do? The first and most important step is to file a Notice of Appeal (and pay the filing fee) to perfect the appeal. Importantly, in the federal system, this Notice of Appeal must be filed within 14 days of the judgment (which is usually the sentencing date, or a day or two later when the judgment is actually filed with the clerk of court). The appellate lawyer then must order and make financial arrangements for the preparation of the court reporter’s transcript of the trial. A rule of thumb is that this transcript will cost approximately $1,000 per day of full trial testimony. After the transcript is completed, it is transmitted by the District Court Clerk along with the record of all pleadings filed and orders entered in the case to the Court of Appeals, and the attorney is sent an electronic copy of the transcript and the record on CD. This begins the running of the clock for the preparation of the Defendant s brief (called the Appellant s Brief). The attorney must carefully scour all of the pleadings, court orders and transcripts for any error that may have occurred during the case. The appellate lawyer then prepares a brief setting forth these errors, and arguing why the conviction and/or sentence should be reversed. This brief must be supported by carefully researched legal authority ( precedent ). Reviewing a complex court record for errors, carefully researching the law and putting forth the arguments in a persuasive brief requires a great deal of experience and skill. In fact, it is an art form. Mr. Kuniansky has been engaged in this art form for the past 37 years.