Within 42 days of a felony conviction, the defendant must file what's called a Claim of Appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals to preserve the right to appeal the conviction or sentence. The Claim of Appeal is a simple form that states the defendant was convicted on such and such date, before the Honorable John Judge in a particular county, and that the defendant is now appealing the conviction. The Claim does not have to state the basis for the appeal, merely that the defendant is taking an appeal. Along with the appeal, the defendant must file a copy of the lower court docket entries (available from the trial court), proof that the transcripts of all of the lower court proceedings have been ordered, and the filing fee (currently $375.00).
Order the transcripts
Contact the court reporter (or reporters) in the trial court to order the transcripts of all of the pertinent hearings, motions, the trial and the sentencing. The court reporter will require a money deposit to begin preparing the transcripts, and, once the deposit is received, will then file a notice in the Court of Appeals that the trancripts have been ordered and their expected completion date.
Prepare and File the Brief
Fifty-six (56) days after the transcripts are filed in the Court of Appeals, the Appellant's Brief on Appeal will be due in the Court of Appeals. The Brief on Appeal will contain all of the legal arguments, broken down into separate issues, the defendant claims entitle him to relief. The Michigan Court Rules dictate what the brief is to contain. There must be a Table of Contents, an Index of Authorities, a concise statement of the questions presented, a statement of the pertinent facts and the argument portion.
Reply to the Prosecution's Brief
The prosecution must file its response to the Appellant's brief within 35 days of the filing of the Appellant's brief (absent any extensions of time which are liberally granted). The Defendant-Appellant now has 21 days to reply to the arguments set forth in the prosecution's brief. The reply should not simply reiterate the arguments in the first brief, but should specifically reply to the arguments the prosecution has made in their brief on appeal.
Attend Oral Argument
If the defendant is in custody, he will not be allowed to attend oral argument on the appeal. However, the arguments are open to the general public, and family members are encouraged to attend. A three judge panel will decide the case, and each side is allowed 15 minutes to present their case. The judges will typically ask numerous questions during the argument and attempt to focus on those issues they may view as the most troubling for the appellant's case. They will do the same with the prosecution.
Following the oral argument, the Court of Appeals will issue its written opinion either granting or denying the appeal (reversing the trial court or affirming the trial court, or remanding the case for clarification).
If the defendant wins, then the Court, depending on what is being asked of it, will order the defendant released and the case dismissed, grant a new trial or remand the case to the trial court for resentencing.
Additional resources provided by the author
Many appellate questions can be answered by visiting the Michigan State Appellate Defender's Office website at www.sado.org.
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