Either the defendant or his or her attorney files a notice of appeal in the court where the conviction occurred. The filing of the notice of appeal starts the appeal process. The notice of appeal is a simple document, usually a single page, stating that the defendant appeals the judgment of the court. After the notice of appeal is filed, the appeal process begins. The case is given a number in the Court of Appeals and the court reporter begins preparing the trial transcripts. The preparation process, from the time the notice of appeal is filed, until the transcripts are prepared can take up to about six months. During this time, the case remains pending on appeal.
Once the transcripts are prepared, the Court of Appeal sets a date for the defendant to submit an Opening Brief. The Opening Brief is prepared by the defendant's attorney and presents the party's position to the Court of Appeal. In order to prepare the Opening Brief, the defendant's attorney reviews the transcripts for legal errors. The legal errors can consist of constitutional errors, evidentiary errors, instructional errors and sentencing errors. .
After the defendant submits an opening brief, the government submits a reply brief. The reply brief contains the opposing party's response to the defendant's assertions of error.
After the government submits a brief, then the defendant gets to submit an optional reply brief. The reply brief contains reasons why the government's position should not be accepted. The reply brief generally completes the briefing process.
After the appeal is fully briefed, the Court of Appeal sets the case for oral argument. The oral argument is held before three appellate justices. The justices hear arguments from both sides and then reach a decision. The decision is called an opinion.
After reading the briefing and hearing argument, the Court of Appeal renders a decision or an opinion, usually either affirming or reversing the case. After the opinion is issued, either party can seek a rehearing or take the case higher to the California Supreme Court.
Additional resources provided by the author
California Court of Appeal
California Supreme Court