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Post-Conviction Appeal

After a legal decision has been rendered in Massachusetts, the side that lost the case can ask for the decision to be reconsidered by the superior court which can take another look at the case to see if the law was followed correctly with the first decision. This is called an appeal or having the grounds for an appeal. Not all cases have the right to appeal; it depends on which court the original decision was made in, whether there are ongoing factors that may affect the decision, and only the people directly and negatively affected by the decision can try to appeal. A final decision must have been reached before a case can be considered for appeal, and an appeal can only be requested within a specific amount of time, which varies according to the statute or governing rules of the appellate court.

To successfully appeal a case, specific documents called a notice of appeal are filed by the appellant (the person who is appealing) with the court and are sent to the appellee (the person who the appeal is against). The paperwork indicates that the unsuccessful side is seeking to have the case and decision reviewed on appeal. An appeal bond is posted by the appellant; this helps secure the appellee against the costs of the appeal, if the appellee wins the case and the appellant doesn’t pay; it is also used to discourage appeals without merit.

A Record on Appeal is a collection of the paperwork of the original trial (known as the trial record), briefs filed by the appellate and appellee, and the entry of the final judgment or order. An appeal must show that there is an error in judgment to be considered for reversing the original decision, and this error should be specified in the appellate brief. An assignment of errors is paperwork submitted by the appellant showing where errors in the law were made.

The appellate court will review the issues on appeal and will consider if any errors made were harmless or prejudicial. If harmless, they will not change the final judicial decision. If considered prejudicial, the judgment is considered reversible.

A hearing is scheduled to hear both sides of the appeal make an oral argument. The appellate court will then make a determination of the appeal, either to affirm (keep), modify, or reverse the original decision, or to remand the case for a new trial.

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