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READ FIRST: This Web page gives you only general information about appeals in limited and unlimited civil cases. It does NOT deal with criminal appeals, small claims appeals, or appeals of infractions or misdemeanors. There is a lot more detailed information about appeals, rules, and requirements on the websites for the Courts of Appeal and the superior court appellate divisions. You will find links to those websites in this section.

For information about appeals in other types of cases, visit:

What is an appeal?

An appeal is when someone who loses a case in a trial court asks a higher court (the appellate court) to review the trial court's decision.

In almost all cases, the appellate court ONLY looks at two things:

  • whether a LEGAL mistake was made in the trial court; AND
  • whether this mistake changed the final decision (called the "judgment") in the case.

An appeal is NOT:

  • A new trial with witnesses or a jury;
  • A chance to go to court and present your case all over again in front of a different judge; or
  • A chance to present new evidence or new witnesses.

The appellate court only reviews what happened in the trial court to decide if a legal mistake was made in the original trial; for example, to see if the trial court judge applied the wrong law to the facts of the case.

The appellate court cannot change the trial court's decision just because the appellate court judges (called "justices") disagree with it. The trial court is entitled to hear the evidence and come to its own decision. The appellate court can only reverse the trial court's decision if it finds a legal mistake in the trial court proceedings that was so important that it changed at least part of the outcome of the case. Because of this heavy burden on the appellant to prove this type of mistake, it is quite difficult to win an appeal.

Also, keep in mind that filing an appeal does NOT stop the trial court's order. Unless you ask the trial or appellate court to postpone ("stay") the trial court's order, you must do what the trial court's order requires you to do during the appeal. A request for a stay can be complicated, and you may still have to pay some of the money ordered by the trial court upfront. Ask a lawyer if one of these options would be good in your case and get help. But remember that an appeal is NOT a way to put off having to comply with the trial court's order.

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TALK TO A LAWYER. You have the right to appeal a case without a lawyer. But appeals are very complicated and take a lot of time, effort, and money. You have to do all the paperwork correctly, meet the deadlines, and follow all the court's rules and procedures. If you make mistakes, your case may be dismissed and you may have to pay the appeal costs of the other side. A lawyer with experience in appeals can help you make sure you complete every step correctly and on time. Also, a lawyer can help you decide if you can or should file an appeal at all. A lawyer may know how to get what you want faster and cheaper by using a different legal process. Many lawyers do not do appeals, so make sure you talk to a lawyer who specializes in appeals. Click for help finding a lawyer.



Getting Help and More Information

For an appeal of a limited civil case (a civil case involving an amount that is $25,000 or less), read the Information on Appeal Procedures for Limited Civil Cases (Form APP-101-INFO).

For an appeal of an unlimited civil case (such as a civil case involving an amount over $25,000 or a family law case), read the Information on Appeal Procedures for Unlimited Civil Cases (Form APP-001).

For the law on civil appeals, read the California Code of Civil Procedure sections 901–914 and the California Rules of Court, especially Title 8 on Appellate Rules. Also, law libraries, self-help legal books, or research guides may be helpful. Click here to find resources to help you research the law.

Most of the Court of Appeal districts have self-help manuals that give a lot of detail on the procedures and requirements for preparing, serving, and filing a notice of appeal. They also have samples for you to use to guide you. See below for more information.

The Courts of Appeal and where to get help

The 1st District Court of Appeal

The 1st District Court of Appeal is in San Francisco and hears appeals in unlimited civil cases (such as civil cases involving an amount over $25,000 and family law cases) from trial courts in Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano, and Sonoma Counties.

For help with an appeal, click on the 1st District Court of Appeal's practices and procedures page.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal

The 2nd District Court of Appeal is in Los Angeles and Ventura and hears appeals in unlimited civil cases from trial courts in Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties.

For help with an appeal, click on the 2nd District Court of Appeal's practices and procedures page, or for more information, click on the 2nd District's self-help resources page.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal

The 3rd District Court of Appeal is in Sacramento and hears appeals in unlimited civil cases from trial courts in Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Yolo, and Yuba Counties.

For help with an appeal, click for the 3rd District Court of Appeal's practices and procedures page.

The 4th District Court of Appeal

The 4th District Court of Appeal has 3 locations, in San Diego, Riverside, and Santa Ana. It hears appeals in unlimited civil cases from trial courts in San Diego, Imperial, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Inyo Counties.

For help with an appeal, click for the 4th District Court of Appeal's practices and procedures page, or click for self-help resources (including a step-by-step guide of the appeals process).

The 5th District Court of Appeal

The 5th District Court of Appeal is in Fresno and hears appeals in unlimited civil cases from trial courts in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus, Tulare, and Tuolumne Counties.

For help with an appeal, click for the 5th District Court of Appeal's practices and procedures page, or click for self-help resources (including a step-by-step guide to the appeals process).

The 6th District Court of Appeal

The 6th District Court of Appeal is in San Jose and hears appeals in unlimited civil cases from trial courts in Santa Clara, San Benito, Santa Cruz, and Monterey Counties.

For help with an appeal, click for the 6th District Court of Appeal's practices and procedures page.

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