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39111 Six Mile Road

Livonia, MI 48152

Michigan's Premier Christian Law Firm 

(800) 597-0284

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Why Are Appeals So Expensive?

        Not unlike a trial, an appeal is costly because of the large amount of work involved.  However, unlike a trial, almost all of this work involves research and writing.  In order to better understand the costs of an appeal, let’s take a brief look at what will go into your and how your appellate attorney will spend their time.


      An effective, well-written appeal involves numerous, painstaking hours of work.  The completion of a successful appeal a of includes thorough preparation; meticulous drafting; and, rigorous legal analysis.


  • Thorough Preparation. This commences with a client interview during which the client explains the goals of the litigation and recollects the facts if the case (including the provision of relevant documents, order, and judgments) and moves to a thorough investigation of your matter.  Next, we must obtain a precise record of what was said and done in court.  This means we must obtain and examine the record on appeal, which includes most but not all of the pleadings, motions, briefs, evidence, and depositions filed during trial.  Additionally, the transcripts of the proceedings below must be ordered from the court reporter(s), who may take months to prepare them.   


In matters involving complex litigation, or trials conducted over a period of several days, transcripts will easily consist of thousands of pages.1

Transcripts are rarely delivered simultaneously.  Rather, they tend to arrive piecemeal.   However, as the court reporter(s) produce the transcripts from you’re the lower court, we must go over each page with a fine tooth comb to recreate and summarize the procedural and factual history of the case. Then, based on the applicable standard of review and the law of the case, we must identify and artfully phrase any and all appealable issues.   This process is arduous and takes days.


While your transcript is being prepared, we will begin legal research and start working on portions of your brief.

  • Rigorous Legal Analysis. The entire purpose of your appeal is persuading the appellate court that the lower court made a crucial mistake.  Consequently, while perusing the often lengthy transcripts is time consuming, most of our time is dedicated to writing your legal brief.  Again, if a legal error was made, it must be fleshed out from the record of the proceedings below.


Once possible errors have been identified, we will research which of them make the strongest case for reversal.  This is a intricate process that requires determining (i) which, if any, of the possible errors were actual legal errors; (ii) whether the actual error(s) would be deemed harmless under the applicable law—i.e., would the outcome have been different absent the error(s); (iii) whether trial counsel preserved the error in the record—i.e., “a litigant must preserve an issue for appellate review by raising it in the trial court, [such that] a failure to raise an issue waives review of that issue on appeal."2; (iv) whether the law of the case supports a new trial, a reversal, a remand, or, some other improvement in the outcome of your case; and, (v) whether pursuing the error is a good choice strategically.  


While researching your appeal, we may discover that one or more of the identified issues—originally thought to be errors—are not in fact errors.  Meanwhile, we may discover that other rulings thought to be correct were in fact erroneous and prejudicial. Such a discovery can lead to a sea change in the original direction of your appeal, which itself can result in days of work.


Finally, after we have decided which errors to pursue, the real work begins. Now, we will find as much legal precedent in support of your arguments as possible.  Then, we will draft and organize your arguments into a persuasive and compelling brief.  It is here that your case is made to the appellate court.  Here we spell out in as much vivid detail as possible how the trial court erred and violated well-established legal precedent requiring reversal or remand.


Our goal is to produce a flawless appellate brief that is compelling, logically organized, and as coherent and concise as possible.  We will anticipate possible counterargument and respectfully dispatch them.  Our legal brief will frame the issues accurately; illustrate how the issues apply to the facts of your case; and, analyze the facts in the light of the law in a manner that is most favorable to your case.  


Depending on the complexity of the case, this step can take days or weeks of work.


  • Meticulous Drafting and Strict Adherence to Deadlines.  Like most courts, appellate courts operate on very strict and unforgiving deadlines.  Generally, in civil cases, you must file a brief with the Court of Appeals within 28 days after the claim of appeal is filed; the order granting leave is certified; the transcript is filed with the trial court; or, a settled statement of facts and certifying order is filed with the trial court or tribunal, whichever is later.3  ​Conversely, for most criminal cases where the transcript was ordered shortly after the claim of appeal was filed, the time limit will be 56 days from when the transcript was filed in the trial court.


  • Oral Argument and Decision.  After you brief is done and filed with the Appeals Court, several months will pass before your case is scheduled for oral argument.4  ​Oral argument may be waived, but if you instructed us to request oral argument, we will be notified by mail or e-mail of the date, time, and location. 


During oral argument, we will have the chance to speak to a panel of three judges for about 15 minutes.  The opposition may have the same opportunity. If oral argument is waived, your case will still be set for submission on a particular date. 


The Court’s judgment will be in the form of a written opinion. Most opinions are issued within a few weeks after oral argument or submission. The opinion will be mailed or to e-mailed us. 


If after receiving the decision of the Court of Appeals you think the Court made a mistake, we may file a motion for reconsideration of the opinion. A motion for reconsideration must be filed within 21 days of the date on the opinion.  The motion will be decided by the judges who issued the opinion. Once the opinion has been issued and any motion for reconsideration decided, the appeal in the Court of Appeals is over, and the Court will close its case file.


Appeals to the Michigan Supreme Court


     While your case is pending before the Michigan Court of Appeals or after your decision you may apply for an appeal before the Michigan Supreme Court.5


     Grounds for an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court require a showing that:


(1)    the issue involves a substantial question about the validity of a legislative act;

(2)    the issue has significant public interest and the case is one by or against the state or one of its agencies or subdivisions or by or against an officer of the state or one of its agencies or subdivisions in the officer’s official capacity;

(3)    the issue involves a legal principle of major significance to the state’s jurisprudence;

(4)    in an appeal before a decision of the Court of Appeals,


(a)    delay in final adjudication is likely to cause substantial harm, or


(b)    the appeal is from a ruling that a provision of the Michigan Constitution, a Michigan statute, a rule or regulation included in the Michigan Administrative Code, or any other action of the legislative or executive branches of state government is invalid;


(6)    in an appeal of a decision of the Court of Appeals,


(a)    the decision is clearly erroneous and will cause material injustice, or


(b)    the decision conflicts with a Supreme Court decision or another decision of the Court of Appeals; or


(7)    in an appeal from the Attorney Discipline Board, the decision is clearly erroneous and will cause material injustice. 


      To be timely, your appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court to must be filed:


(1)    Bypass Application. In an appeal before the Court of Appeals decision, the application must be filed within 42 days after:

(a)    a claim of appeal is filed in the Court of Appeals;

(b)    an application for leave to appeal is filed in the Court of Appeals; or


(c)    an original action is filed in the Court of Appeals.


(2)    Application After Court of Appeals Decision. Except as provided in subrule (C)(4), the application must be filed within 42 days in civil cases, or within 56 days in criminal cases, after:


(a)    the Court of Appeals order or opinion resolving an appeal or original action, including an order denying an application for leave to appeal,


(b)    the Court of Appeals order or opinion remanding the case to the lower court or Tribunal for further proceedings while retaining jurisdiction,


(c)    the Court of Appeals order denying a timely filed motion for reconsideration, or


(d)    the Court of Appeals order granting a motion to publish an opinion that was originally released as unpublished.


(3)    Interlocutory Application from the Court of Appeals. Generally, your application must be filed within 28 days after a Court of Appeals order that does not resolve the appeal or original action, including an order granting an application for leave to appeal.6


Statutory Court Filing Fees


     If you are unable to pay the fees required by state or federal statute, you may, by motion, accompanied by an affidavit stating facts showing that inability, ask the court to suspend or waive the fees and the court or a judge of the court may waive the payment of the fees.   Otherwise, you will be assessed the following statutory fees.


State Court Filing Fees


Fees to Appeal to Circuit Court (civil or criminal cases)


  • Before filing a claim of appeal or motion for leave (i.e., permission) to appeal from the district court, probate court, a municipal court, or an administrative tribunal or agency, the appellant or moving party shall pay a fee of $150.00. 


Fees to the Michigan Court of Appeals or the Michigan Supreme Court


  • For an appeal as of right, for an application for leave to appeal, or for an original proceeding, $375.00. This fee shall be paid only once for appeals that are taken by multiple parties from the same lower court order or judgment and can be consolidated.

  • Upon the entry of any motion except a motion described in subdivision (c) upon the motion docket, $100.00.

  • Upon the entry of a motion for immediate consideration or a motion to expedite appeal upon the motion docket, $200.00. This fee shall be paid only once regardless of the number of lower court files involved in the appeal. A prosecuting attorney is exempt from paying a fee under this subdivision with regard to an appeal arising out of a criminal proceeding.


United States Court of Appeals Filing Fees

For docketing a case on appeal or review, or docketing any other proceeding, $500.

  • Each party filing a notice of appeal pays a separate fee to the district court, but parties filing a joint notice of appeal pay only one fee.

  • There is no docketing fee for an application for an interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) or other petition for permission to appeal under Fed. R. App. P. 5, unless the appeal is allowed.

  • There is no docketing fee for a direct bankruptcy appeal or a direct bankruptcy cross appeal, when the fee has been collected by the bankruptcy court in accordance with item 14 of the Bankruptcy Court Miscellaneous Fee Schedule.

  • This fee is collected in addition to the statutory fee of $5 that is collected under 28 U.S.C. § 1917.

 Related Link:    How much does an appeal cost?

We are Experienced Appellate Lawyers

      We handle challenging, high-stakes problems that can only be resolved in our highest courts. 


     Our appellate courts exist because judges and juries are not infallible. If you believe that a judge or a jury made a mistake in your case, we may be able to help you.  That is, upon review of your case, we may be able to help secure a reduced sentence; a new trial; a remand; a record expungement; or, improve the outcome of your case in some other way.


    Please note well that, as Christian attorneys, you can rest assured that if we think that you do not have grounds for an appeal, we will tell you.









[1] In criminal cases, the transcripts for claims of appeal are usually ordered by the trial court (if counsel is appointed) or by an attorney hired by the defendant. Once the reporter receives the order, the court reporter is required to file a form called “Stenographer’s Certificate” with the Court of Appeals.

[2] Walters v Nadell, 481 Mich 377, 386; 751 NW2d 431 (2008).  See also In re Forfeiture of Certain Personal Property, 441 Mich 77, 84; 490 NW2d 322 (1992) (“Issues and arguments raised for the first time on appeal are not subject to review.”); Duray Dev, LLC v Perrin, 288 Mich App 143, 149; 792 NW2d 749 (2010) (explaining that to preserve an issue for appeal, a party must specifically raise it before the trial court).

[3] MCR 7.212(A)(1)(a)(i).

[4] Oral argument is usually not available to people who are incarcerated.

[5] MCR 7.305(B).

[6] MCR 7.305(C).

DISCLAIMER: All information contained in this website is for education purpose only. Law Offices of RL Johnson PLLC, its agents and affiliates cannot and will not render any legal or tax advice of any kind, unless said agent is duly licensed by the applicable state and/or federal authority to give said advice.


© 2012 by Law Offices RL Johnson PLLC

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