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Appellate Litigation

SPS&T defends and prosecutes judicial and administrative appeals on a wide range of legal issues. Appellate litigation generally requires attorneys to work with only the facts already included in the record of an initial agency hearing or court trial. Success can be achieved either by convincing the appellate court that it has no choice but to accept your position, or by making the court want to accept your position and providing it with the legal basis to do so.

Therefore, whether challenging an unfavorable decision or defending a favorable decision with some potential weaknesses, our attorneys think creatively, conduct thorough research, and present persuasive written and oral argument to achieve victory for our clients.

Most appeals are won or lost as a result of the written briefs submitted to the appellate court. An appellate brief must identify the alleged errors committed by the lower court, advise the appellate court of the pertinent facts, and present persuasive argument as to how the law should apply to the facts of the case. Often, appeals involve an unsettled legal issue. In such cases, we use similar cases that present favorable analogies and parallel cases in other jurisdictions to convince the appellate court to rule in our clients’ favor.

Kenneth Sigman, the lead attorney in most of our appellate cases, draws on his experience as a law clerk to Judge Peter Krauser of the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland and Judge Richard Clark of the Circuit Court for Charles County, Maryland, a research assistant to an eminent legal scholar, and as a published member and editor of the Catholic University Law Review. Mr. Sigman regularly defends against judicial appeals of decisions of local government agencies, and has litigated appeals involving such diverse issues as the revocation of a liquor license, the termination of a police officer for mental unfitness, and the authority of a local government to impose rent control.

Susan Silber has litigated several successful appellate cases, including cases involving the defense of a county civil rights statute, interstate child custody disputes, and the rights of lesbian and gay parents. She drafted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court regarding affirmative action on behalf of national women’s organizations.

Appellate litigation often is costly and time consuming. Therefore, we carefully analyze prospective cases before we will commit to prosecute an appeal. Once underway, the appellate process often creates opportunities for settlements that address our clients’ concerns. We take advantage of these opportunities to minimize our clients’ risk and legal expenses. In the most compelling cases, we have enlisted the participation of national interest groups to bolster the quality and credibility of our argument and to defray our clients’ cost.

If you are considering appealing an unfavorable decision, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible because you may be required to file a “notice of appeal” with the court within as little as ten days after the issuance of the unfavorable decision. By missing a deadline, you may forfeit your right to appeal your case, regardless of the merits. If you have already filed a notice of appeal, you should still begin your search for an attorney as soon as possible so that the attorney you hire has time to perform the work necessary for your case.

Procedures and Fees

Initial Consultation. If you contact our office regarding a potential appeal, we will schedule an initial one-hour consultation with one or more of our attorneys to review critical documents relating to the case and to discuss the your concerns about the judgment. At the end of the consultation, we will advise you of our initial impression of the merits of your case and the potential cost of your case, and explain potential next steps. The consultation should help you decide whether to order a transcript of the case record, which can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Our fee for the initial consultation is $150.00 per hour.

Case Review. Typically, before we can advise you of the merits of an appeal with certainty, we must review the case record in detail. If, based on your initial consultation, you remain interested in pursuing the appeal, we will conduct a thorough review of the case record and advise you of your likelihood of success. The case review will be performed on a flat-fee basis. The specific amount of the fee will depend on the length of the record and the apparent number of issues. If you decide to proceed with the appeal, the case review fee will count toward the fee for briefing and arguing your case.

Formal Representation. We handle appeals on either an hourly or flat-fee basis. The flat fee or estimated hourly retainer amount will depend on the number and complexity of the issues in the case.
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