What Is The Difference Between Trial Courts & Appellate?

Did you know that a verdict isn’t always final? There are ways for the defendant or the prosecutor to have their case heard again once the judge has made a ruling. Most citizens know what a trial is, especially if they’ve attended one during jury duty. But not many know what an appellate court is and how it varies from a trial. To help you understand both courts, we’ll go over the main functions of each, and how they differ:

Trial Courts

When people picture court cases, a trial court is typically what they see; it’s the one commonly represented in TV shows and movies. This court is composed of a jury (a group of citizens who must make a unanimous decision about the verdict) and a judge or panel of judges. Both the defendant (who represents the person charged) and the prosecutor (who presents evidence against the accused person) submit opening and closing arguments. Evidence is examined by the judges; it includes eyewitnesses, police reports, and testimonies. In the courtroom, there may be reporters, the victim(s), and a witness support worker to help those testifying against the accused. The trial concludes when the judge and jury reach a verdict of either guilty or not guilty. 

Most cases are settled at the trial, but there are exceptions. If either of the parties believes that the verdict does not consider the full scope of the law, the trial will be taken to the appellate court. But an appeal is not the same as a second trial; there are a few key differences that separate these courts. 

Appellate Courts

After a trial has reached a verdict, either party has a legal right to file for an appeal. This is like an intermediate stage between a trial court and the Supreme Court of Canada. A hearing occurs after the initial trial, but before that trial would go to a higher court. If new evidence is discovered that was not considered in the initial trial, it is rarely taken up in the appellate court—an appeal’s primary concern is whether the law was applied correctly. No witnesses or evidence are present at the appeal; it relies on what has already been brought forth at the trial rather than presenting new arguments. When the appellate court concludes, the panel of judges will decide if the initial verdict was fair, if it should be reversed, or they will schedule another trial for the case.

In the event that a party is still dissatisfied with the verdict, they can appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada (the final level of hearings) for another review, but it’s unlikely that it will be heard; in 2019, the Court received 517 appeal applications but heard only 67 of them

If you believe your trial was not held fairly, and involved bias or misapplication of the law, you need to meet with an appeals lawyer in Winnipeg. At Brodsky Amy & Gould, our firm has a proven track record in appellate court. Contact us today to speak with an experienced lawyer who can help get your case heard.