A lot of attorneys don’t handle appellate practice. It requires excellent writing skills and sometimes oral argument in front of appellate judges (no juries), who are extremely well-versed in the law and will have no problem asking probing questions to explore weaknesses in an argument. The procedural guidelines are also much more strict. It’s not uncommon for a pro se (someone without an attorney) litigant’s case to be dismissed because he or she did not follow the correct procedural rules in court filings.
Very generally, a case can be appealed if a party believes there has been a trial error or the lower court’s finding is against the weight of the evidence. The appeal has to be done in a timely fashion, or else it is waived. However, before going and blindly filing a notice of appeal it is paramount to determine the standard of review on appeal, as that will have a lot to do with success or failure. The three main standards of review in Missouri appellate courts are abuse of discretion, findings of fact, and de novo.
The abuse of discretion standard is greatly deferential to a lower court’s findings. Only when the lower ruling is clearly against the logic of the circumstances and thoroughly arbitrary and unreasonable will an appellate court overturn a lower court’s decision. Obviously, this standard of review does not favor an appellant.
Under the Missouri Rules of Civil Procedure, appellate courts will also generally defer to a lower courts findings of facts, unless clearly erroneous. The reasoning for this is that the credibility of witnesses and the inferences to be drawn therefrom are determinations best made by the trial court.
De novo reviews are the most favorable to appellants. It carries with it the highest likelihood of reversal. The appellate court is permitted to take a fresh look at the record and substitute its own judgment in place of the trial court.