Appeals & Writs

Appeals & Writs

San Diego Appellate Lawyer (APPEALS AND WRITS)

I have been successful in appellate practice, where most civil appeals are unsuccessful.

“[A]n appellant winning is the old journalistic definition of news: Man bites dog”. Mix v. Superior Court (Behniwal) (2004) 124 Cal.App.4th 987, 995.

Why? I am choosy about the cases I take up on appeal. I love to appeal, but only if I think I am going to win! I also consider the cost of an appeal, in attorney fees and expenses, against the amount to be gained by appellate victory. My success with appeals and writs can also be attributed to the fact that I am a good researcher and an even better writer – and appeals are usually won and lost on the briefs.


In California*, the general procedure for filing an appeal includes:

  • The timely filing of a notice of appeal
  • The appellate “record” is (timely) designated and prepared (the “record” is comprised of papers filed in the trial court and reporter’s transcript/s of the oral trial court proceedings)
  • Appellate briefs are (timely) prepared, filed and served (appellant’s “Opening Brief”, followed by respondent’s “Respondent’s Brief”, followed by appellant’s [optional] “Reply Brief”)
  • Oral argument (optional/maximum of 30 minutes per side)
  • A written decision by the 3-justice panel, including the Court’s factual and legal conclusions, is filed. If the court publishes the decision, it becomes law that is binding on all persons in California. Otherwise, the decision binds only the parties to that case.

An appeal is not a “retrial”, but a review of the lower court’s judgment or order for legal error that was prejudicial. No witnesses testify. Appeals are won, or lost, primarily based upon the briefs that are filed.
Special considerations and caveats: You should ask your lawyer whether the judgment or order you want to challenge is appealable. If not, it may still be reviewable by extraordinary writ. It is critical that your appeal be filed in a timely manner, or the appellate court will lack jurisdiction (power) to decide your appeal.


  • 1995: Judicial Extern to Hon. Norman L. Epstein, California Court of Appeal
  • 1996: Judicial Extern to Hon. Alex Kozinski, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Some notable Appellate Victories:

  • Sutherland v. Barclays
  • Marriage of Lammers
  • Marriage of Hammons
  • Marriage of Ayala
  • Marsala v. Chapman
  • Kipperman v. Sutherland (In re Bush)
  • Marriage of Molina
  • Marriage of Gruen
*Ms. Sutherland is licensed to practice law in California only. Each state has its own laws and procedures pertaining to appellate practice. If you have a question about an appeal or writ filed, or to be filed, in another state, then you should consult with an appellate lawyer who is licensed to practice law in that state.