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What is an appeal?

3 minute read

When you watch the daily news, you may hear about someone who is appealing a decision made by a Court. Have you ever wondered what an appeal is and how they work?

Under the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976, courts can hear appeals regarding:

  • Judgments (decisions) of a single Judge in the Federal Court whether interlocutory or final;

  • Judgments of a Supreme Court of a Territory other than the ACT or NT;

  • Certain judgments of the courts of a State, the ACT or NT (other than a Full Court of the Supreme Court); and

  • Certain judgments of the Federal Circuit Court.

Appeals are heard by the Full Court of three or more Judges who sit together to hear the appeal in Court. If the appeal is from a judgment made by a Judge in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia or a Court of summary jurisdiction, the appeal will be heard by a single judge, who determines whether the appeal is appropriate for the Full Court.

The Court shares first-instance jurisdiction with the Supreme Courts of the states and territories in the complex area of intellectual property (copyright, patents, trademarks, designs and circuit layouts). All appeals in these cases, including appeals from the Supreme Court, are to a full Federal Court.

Most appeals from the Magistrates Court are heard by the District Court. A party to a proceeding may appeal a District Court decision to the Court of Appeal. Appeals from the Supreme Court are heard by the Court of Appeal. It also hears appeals from many tribunals.

To be successful in an appeal, you must prove that the Judge made an error in the original case.

Types of errors can include:

  • Where an incorrect principle of law was applied; or

  • Where a finding was made that could not be supported by the evidence produced.

In an appeal case, you can bring forward new evidence if it has come to light and if special circumstances exist. No witnesses are required. The Judge’s simply read through relevant documents, and transcripts of the original case and listen to the legal argument from both parties.

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