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What’s the Difference Between an Appeal and a Petition?

What’s the Difference Between an Appeal and a Petition?

What is a petition in court versus what is an appeal in court? When it comes to a petition vs appeal, there are fundamental and important differences that are essential to proper and timely court processes for your case or claim. Let’s start with a basic understanding of each type of legal filing:

What is a Petition in Court?

As the typical first step in initiating a lawsuit, a petition is a formal request to a lower court seeking a court order. The petition may be filed with the court by a person, group, or organization; and the court expects the petition to clearly state why the requested order is necessary. The party filing the petition is called, naturally, the petitioner, whereas the party against whom the petition has been filed is called the respondent.

A petition is similar to a “complaint” in that both are filed with the court to attain a requested measure of legal relief. A complaint, however (filed by a plaintiff against a defendant), typically asks the court to order the defendant to take (or cease) some action; it can also be a request of the court to award a financial judgment, or “damages.”

Common legal petitions include requests to grant a continuance of a court case, dismiss a case altogether, change jurisdiction, deny bail for a defendant, or reduce the amount of bail. Petitions are also commonly filed initiating divorce proceedings, seeking child custody, and requesting restraining and protective orders. Another common petition is the filing of a Writ of Habeas Corpus wherein a prisoner seeks to appear before the court, or another petitioner asks the court to order the prisoner’s appearance.

While a petition most commonly seeks an original court order from a lower court, it can also be used to request a higher (appellate) court to grant an appeal and initiate a review of a prior lower court verdict or ruling.

What is an Appeal in Court?

When either party involved in the lower court civil or criminal case loses their case or is dissatisfied with some or all of the judgment, they normally have the right to appeal the court’s decision. This is done by an appellate attorney who files for certiorari (the process of seeking judicial review of the lower court’s ruling).

If the case is accepted by the appellate court, it does not mean the case is retried. Rather, the ensuing review process will likely consider and identify lower court errors, or serve to clarify or interpret applicable law, including laws that bear legal precedent for the reviewed case.

A criminal or civil appellate court will have multiple judges involved in accepting and processing the review. Normally, the initial panel of presiding appellate judges is three. Although in certain jurisdictions, more judges may be engaged in hearing and reviewing the case.

Typical outcomes for appeals of smaller criminal and civil appeals cases are to either uphold or set aside the lower court’s judgment. Rarely, a rehearing of the original case is ordered. Otherwise, if the appeal is not upheld, it has been denied and the ruling of the lower court stands. On the other hand, if the appeal is upheld, it has been successful and the lower court ruling is set aside. In most cases, this results in the case being remanded (sent back) to the lower court with instructions regarding how to correct errors. If those errors “tainted the verdict,” the appellate court could order a new trial. It is rare for an appeals court to set aside and completely dismiss the initial lower court judgment. It is also extremely rare for subsequent appeals to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Key Takeaways:

What is an appeal in court? What is a petition in court? And when it comes to a petition vs appeal, what are the primary differences? Here are some important considerations:

  • A petition is the typical first step in initiating a lawsuit and is a formal request to a lower court seeking an original court order
  • A “complaint” is similar to a petition; however, a complaint typically seeks the awarding of “damages” or asks the court to order the defendant to take (or cease) some action
  • A petition can also be used to request a higher (appellate) court to grant an appeal and initiate a review of a prior lower court verdict or ruling
  • Criminal and civil appeals are normally a legal right for lower court litigants who did not prevail or win their case
  • An appeal is a review by an appellate (appeals) court of a lower court ruling
  • Typical outcomes for appeals are to either uphold or set aside the lower court’s judgment
  • In most cases, a successful appeal results in the case being sent back to the lower court with instructions to correct errors

At Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., our attorneys draw on decades of collective experience when handling civil cases, including the filing and further litigating of petitions and appeals. To learn more, contact us today at (317) 972-8000.

We believe that being an educated legal consumer can help you make the most of the legal experience in meeting your legal objectives. This blog post, for example, provides general educational material regarding petition vs appeal. This information is presented by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who practice throughout the State of Indiana. It is not a solicitation, nor is it intended to provide specific legal advice. It is an advertisement. Information contained herein is subject to change.

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Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., is a law firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. We serve clients in six core practice areas: family lawappellate practicefirearms lawgeneral practicepersonal injury and criminal law.

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Based in Indianapolis and founded in 1995, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. is a niche law firm focused on successfully dealing with the complexities of divorce, high-conflict child custody and family law. Known for their ability to solve extremely complex situations with high quality work and responsiveness, Ciyou & Dixon will guide you every step of the way. The family law attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. will help you precisely identify your objectives and the means to reach your desired result. In addition, this practice focus is augmented by the firm's other three core areas, namely appellate advocacy, civil practice, and firearms law. Life is uncertain. Be certain of your counselSM.

Indianapolis Divorce Attorneys, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. of Indianapolis, Indiana, offers legal services for Indianapolis, Zionsville, Noblesville, Carmel, Avon, Anderson, Danville, Greenwood, Brownsburg, Geist, Fortville, McCordsville, Muncie, Greenfield, Westfield, Fort Wayne, Fishers, Bloomington, Lafayette, Marion County, Hamilton County, Hendricks County, Allen County, Delaware County, Morgan County, Hendricks County, Boone County, Vigo County, Johnson County, Hancock County, and Tippecanoe County, Indiana.