Massachusetts Appeals Court
Created in 1972, the Appeals Court is the intermediate appellate court of Massachusetts. The only higher state court is the Supreme Judicial Court. Direct appeal to the Appeals Court is a matter of right, making the Appeals Court the "workhorse" of the Massachusetts appellate court system.
The Appeals Court consists of twenty-five justices, the Chief Justice and twenty four associate justices. The Appeals Court hears direct appeals of civil and criminal cases in panels of three justices.
A decision rendered by the Appeals Court becomes final if not challenged. A challenge is made by filing an application for further appellate review in the Supreme Judicial Court. Further review is discretionary, not by right.
The rules of appellate procedure are strict and often unforgiving. The primary source of argument is in writing, in appellate briefs. The content and form of an appellate brief typically decides the case. The standard of appellate review applied to each issue is critical. Experienced appellate counsel presents oral argument through a legal discussion with the panel of justices, not at them. First impression matter. There is no substitute for appellate experience.