A court of appeals, also called a court of appeal, appellate court, appeal court, court of second instance or second instance court, is any
court of law A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordan ...
that is empowered to hear an
appeal In law, an appeal is the process in which cases are reviewed by a higher authority, where parties request a formal change to an official decision. Appeals function both as a process for error correction as well as a process of clarifying and ...
of a trial court or other lower tribunal. In much of the world, court systems are divided into at least three levels: the trial court, which initially hears cases and reviews
evidence Evidence for a proposition is what supports this proposition. It is usually understood as an indication that the supported proposition is true. What role evidence plays and how it is conceived varies from field to field. In epistemology, evidenc ...
and testimony to determine the facts of the case; at least one intermediate appellate court; and a supreme court (or court of last resort) which primarily reviews the decisions of the intermediate courts, often on a discretionary basis. A particular court system's supreme court is its highest appellate court. Appellate courts nationwide can operate under varying rules. Under its standard of review, an appellate court decides the extent of the deference it would give to the lower court's decision, based on whether the appeal were one of fact or of law. In reviewing an issue of fact, an appellate court ordinarily gives deference to the trial court's findings. It is the duty of trial judges or
juries A jury is a sworn body of people (jurors) convened to hear evidence and render an impartial verdict (a finding of fact on a question) officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. Juries developed in England duri ...
to find facts, view the evidence firsthand, and observe witness testimony. When reviewing lower decisions on an issue of fact, courts of appeal generally look for clear error. The appellate court reviews issues of law (anew, no deference) and may reverse or modify the lower court's decision if the appellate court believes the lower court misapplied the facts or the law. An appellate court may also review the lower judge's discretionary decisions, such as whether the judge properly granted a new trial or disallowed evidence. The lower court's decision is only changed in cases of an "
abuse of discretion Discretion has the meaning of acting on one's own authority and judgment. In law, discretion as to legal rulings, such as whether evidence is excluded at a trial, may be exercised by a judge. Some view discretion negatively, while some view it ...
". This standard tends to be even more deferential than the "clear error" standard. Before hearing any case, the court must have
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin 'law' + 'declaration') is the legal term for the legal authority granted to a legal entity to enact justice. In federations like the United States, areas of jurisdiction apply to local, state, and federal levels. Jur ...
to consider the appeal. The authority of appellate courts to review the decisions of lower courts varies widely from one jurisdiction to another. In some areas, the appellate court has limited powers of review. Generally, an appellate court's judgment provides the final directive of the appeals courts as to the matter appealed, setting out with specificity the court's determination that the action appealed from should be affirmed, reversed, remanded or modified. Depending on the type of case and the decision below, appellate review primarily consists of: an entirely new hearing (a non trial de novo); a hearing where the appellate court gives deference to factual findings of the lower court; or review of particular legal rulings made by the lower court (an appeal on the record).

Bifurcation of civil and criminal appeals

While many appellate courts have jurisdiction over all cases decided by lower courts, some systems have appellate courts divided by the type of jurisdiction they exercise. Some jurisdictions have specialized appellate courts, such as the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which only hears appeals raised in criminal cases, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which has general jurisdiction but derives most of its caseload from patent cases, on one hand, and appeals from the Court of Federal Claims on the other. In the United States, Alabama, Tennessee, and Oklahoma also have separate courts of criminal appeals. Texas and Oklahoma have the final determination of criminal cases vested in their respective courts of criminal appeals, while Alabama and Tennessee allow decisions of its court of criminal appeals to be finally appealed to the state supreme court.

Courts of criminal appeals

;Civilian * Court of Criminal Appeal (England and Wales), abolished 1966 *
Court of Criminal Appeal (Ireland) The Court of Criminal Appeal ( ga, An Chúirt Achomhairc Choiriúil) was an appellate court for criminal cases in the law of the Republic of Ireland. It existed from 1924 until 2014, when it was superseded by the Court of Appeal, which can hea ...
, abolished 2014 * U.S. States: ** Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ** Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ** Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals ** Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ;Military * United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals * Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals (United States) * Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals (United States) * Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals (United States)

Courts of civil appeals

* Alabama Court of Civil Appeals *
Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals is an intermediate appellate court in the state of Oklahoma. Cases are assigned to it by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the state's highest court for civil matters.

Appellate courts by country

New Zealand

The Court of Appeal of New Zealand, located in Wellington, is New Zealand's principal intermediate appellate court. In practice, most appeals are resolved at this intermediate appellate level, rather than in the Supreme Court.


The Court of Appeals of the Philippines is the principal intermediate appellate court of that country. The Court of Appeals is primarily found in Manila, with three divisions each in
Cebu City Cebu City, officially the City of Cebu ( ceb, Dakbayan sa Sugbo; fil, Lungsod ng Cebu; hil, Dakbanwa sang Sugbo), is a 1st class highly urbanized city in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines and capital of the Cebu Province. Ac ...
Cagayan de Oro Cagayan ( ), officially the Province of Cagayan ( ilo, Probinsia ti Cagayan; ibg, Provinsiya na Cagayan; itv, Provinsiya ya Cagayan; fil, Lalawigan ng Cagayan), is a province in the Philippines located in the Cagayan Valley region, covering ...
. Other appellate courts include the
Sandiganbayan The Sandiganbayan ( en, Support of the Nation) is a special appellate collegial court in the Philippines that has jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases involving graft and corrupt practices and other offenses committed by public office ...
for cases involving graft and corruption, and the Court of Tax Appeals for cases involving tax. Appeals from all three appellate courts are to the Supreme Court.

Sri Lanka

The Court of Appeal of Sri Lanka, located in
Colombo Colombo ( ; si, කොළඹ, translit=Koḷam̆ba, ; ta, கொழும்பு, translit=Koḻumpu, ) is the executive and judicial capital and largest city of Sri Lanka by population. According to the Brookings Institution, Colombo met ...
, is the second senior court in the Sri Lankan legal system.

United Kingdom

United States

In the United States, both state and federal appellate courts are usually restricted to examining whether the lower court made the correct legal determinations, rather than hearing direct evidence and determining what the facts of the case were. Furthermore, U.S. appellate courts are usually restricted to hearing appeals based on matters that were originally brought up before the trial court. Hence, such an appellate court will not consider an appellant's argument if it is based on a theory that is raised for the first time in the appeal. In most U.S. states, and in U.S. federal courts, parties before the court are allowed one appeal as of right. This means that a party who is unsatisfied with the outcome of a trial may bring an
appeal In law, an appeal is the process in which cases are reviewed by a higher authority, where parties request a formal change to an official decision. Appeals function both as a process for error correction as well as a process of clarifying and ...
to contest that outcome. However, appeals may be costly, and the appellate court must find an error on the part of the court below that justifies upsetting the verdict. Therefore, only a small proportion of trial court decisions result in appeals. Some appellate courts, particularly supreme courts, have the power of discretionary review, meaning that they can decide whether they will hear an appeal brought in a particular case.

Institutional titles

Many U.S. jurisdictions title their appellate court a ''court of appeal'' or ''court of appeals''. Historically, others have titled their appellate court a ''court of errors'' (or ''court of errors and appeals''), on the premise that it was intended to correct errors made by lower courts. Examples of such courts include the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals (which existed from 1844 to 1947), the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors (which has been renamed the Connecticut Supreme Court), the Kentucky Court of Errors (renamed the
Kentucky Supreme Court The Kentucky Supreme Court was created by a 1975 constitutional amendment and is the state supreme court of the U.S. state of Kentucky. Prior to that the Kentucky Court of Appeals was the only appellate court in Kentucky. The Kentucky Court ...
), and the Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals (since renamed the Supreme Court of Mississippi). In some jurisdictions, a court able to hear appeals is known as an appellate division. The phrase "court of appeals" most often refers to intermediate appellate courts. However, the Maryland and New York systems are different. The
Maryland Court of Appeals The Supreme Court of Maryland is the highest court of the U.S. state of Maryland. Its name was changed on December 14, 2022, from the Maryland Court of Appeals, after a voter-approved change to the state constitution. The court, which is compose ...
and the
New York Court of Appeals The New York Court of Appeals is the supreme court, highest court in the Judiciary of New York (state), Unified Court System of the New York (state), State of New York. The Court of Appeals consists of seven judges: the Chief Judge of the New Yor ...
are the highest appellate courts in those states. The New York Supreme Court is a trial court of general jurisdiction. Depending on the system, certain courts may serve as both trial courts and appellate courts, hearing appeals of decisions made by courts with more limited jurisdiction.

See also

* Court of Criminal Appeal (disambiguation) *
Court of Appeal (Hong Kong) The Court of Appeal of the High Court of Hong Kong is the second most senior court in the Hong Kong legal system. It deals with appeals on all civil and criminal cases from the Court of First Instance and the District Court. It is one of tw ...
* High Court (Hong Kong) * Court of Appeal (England and Wales) * Court of cassation




* Lax, Jeffrey R. "Constructing Legal Rules on Appellate Courts." American Political Science Review 101.3 (2007): 591–604. Sociological Abstracts; Worldwide Political Science Abstracts. Web. 29 May 2012. {{DEFAULTSORT:Court of Appeals Courts by type Appellate courts Jurisdiction