Law 101

Appeals and Writs

What is an appeal?

An appeal is a proceeding in which a higher court reviews the actions taken by a trial court. Appeals are generally limited to a review of the record from the lower court. The appellate court can only review issues and evidence introduced at trial. The appellate court reviews the lower court’s application of the law to the facts as presented at trial. The appellate court may only decide if there were errors of law serious enough to prevent a party from having a fair trial, or if there was insufficient evidence at trial to support the lower court’s decision. If the trial judge properly applied the laws, and the decision was supported by substantial evidence, the appellate court will not overturn the trial court’s decision.

What is a writ?

Most other orders are not appealable, but can be reviewed by writ. Writs of administrative mandate (mandamus) are used to ask a judge to review a decision made by an administrative body, such as the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board. A Petition for Writ of Administrative Mandate is not a new trial on your matter. Generally, any argument, defense, theory, or evidence not presented at the administrative hearing is considered waived, and cannot be presented to the trial court during the Petition for Writ of Administrative Mandate. In this type of legal action, the court reviews the administrative proceedings to ensure that the agency proceeded in accordance with the law, that you received a fair trial, and that the agency’s decision is supported by the evidence and findings.

Community Resources

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California Appeals Court Courts
Sacramento County Superior Court, Civil Division 3rd District Court of Appeal


The Judicial Council creates several of the forms needed to begin a civil appeal. Limited Civil cases require the use of a local form. For writs and appellate briefs, you will need to create your own forms. Please visit the Law Library for samples and more information.

Form Resources

Court Summons Judicial Council Forms - Appellate Forms These forms can be filled out online, and printed for filing.
Legal forms Sacramento County Court Forms Local and Statewide forms for appeals.

Research Guides

The Law Librarians have created these research guides as an aid for those starting a legal research project. These guides recommend print and electronic resources that will help you find answers to your law-related questions. Many of these provide step-by-step information, as well as sample forms, for common legal procedures.

Related Websites

Keyboard Self Help Manual
Laptop displaying books California Appellate Courts Self-Help Resource Center From the California Appellate Courts


Videos from the California and federal court system on whether and how to appeal a case.

Appeal video To Appeal or Not to Appeal
Perfecting Your Appeal (Ninth Circuit) A simple guide to the proper and timely preparation of your federal appeal.