Jonathan Shapiro Explains Appeals in Virginia

Hi, I am Jonathan Shapiro, Partner at Greenspun Shapiro PC. I am also a law professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law. I've practiced criminal defense for forty-four years now.

As you have already heard from my partners, we do a lot of vigorous trial work at the firm. It happens of course that sometimes the judge or jury doesn't agree with our position. When that happens, our clients often ask for us to appeal.

People who have not been through the process may not be aware that an appeal, other than a misdemeanor case, is not a new trial. Instead, it involves writing an appeal brief and working to convince judges on the appeals court that a mistake was made at the trial by the judge or the prosecutor. That will always involve combing through the transcript of the trial to identify those errors and then writing the most compelling and persuasive arguments we can. It takes a ton of work and thought.

We prepare for appeals the same way we prepare for trials with plenty of help and insight from the client. After all, it is the client's case and the client's freedom at stake. We are the client's advocate and not their boss. So, we want to know what the client thinks the big issues are. We want our clients to review what we write and we want to get and consider their ideas with the goal of putting together the best possible appeal for which the client's voice is heard.

Now on the lawyer's side, the process is a collaborative one. No brief is the result of one lawyer's work. Instead, several sets of eyes will review what is written and make suggestions and perhaps pitch in with the writing. Our firm name goes on it and we want it to be the best it can be. It also often also happens that clients who have had other lawyers at their trial ask us to handle their appeals. We are always glad to step in. 

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