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What is an appeal in court and how does it work? [2024]

This is a super detailed post about what is an appeal in court.

If you want to have a clear understanding of what is an appeal, the purpose of the appeal, the grounds for appeal, how to file an appeal, etc. you will love the details I’m about to share with you.


In many suits, parties settle their claims amicably and hence a settlement order/ a decree is issued in favor of such parties. In such circumstances, the matter ends there.

There are also many matters which end in a manner that leaves another party to the suit fully or partially aggrieved by the decision of the trial court (the court which heard the case for the first time) or a court in appeal (the court which heard the case for the second time)

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In such situations, an aggrieved party has a statutory right to present (appeal) his/her matter formally before a higher court for determination.

A party who has partially won a case is also allowed to present that portion of the decision which aggrieves him/her before the same court for determination also.

The questions to be answered now are: what is meant by the concept of appeal? How is an appeal filled in the higher court? How is an appeal handled by an appellate court? These and a few sub-questions will be answered below.

let’s get started

What is an appeal in court?

An appeal in court is a process through which a person aggrieved by the decision of a trial court or a court in appeal presents his grievances to a higher court for reconsideration through laid down legal procedures.

The losing party in a decision by a trial court in the federal courts normally is entitled to appeal the decision to a federal court of appeals. 


For example, when a case has been decided by a primary court the appeal goes to the district court or a court of a Resident Magistrate.

When a case has been decided by the district court or a court of a Resident Magistrate the appeal goes to the High Court.

When a case has been tried by the High Court the appeal goes to the Court of Appeal. (This will depend on the court structure in your country)

A person who appeals is called an appellant or petitioner while a person who the appeal is lodged against; or a person who responds to the appeal is known as the respondent.

The court in which the appeal is filed; and has the power to hear/determine the appeal is known as the appellate court.

The purpose of an appeal is to allow an aggrieved party to challenge the decision of the trial court.

Through an appeal, an aggrieved party may expect change or clarification of the prior decision.

How is an appeal filed and handled by the appellate court?

An appeal is usually filed by an appellant or his advocate or agent.

An appeal is filed by lodging a Memorandum of An appeal signed by the appellant in the relevant Civil Registry of the District Court or High Court after paying the requisite fees.

The memorandum must be accompanied by a copy of the decree appealed from and the judgment on which such decree is founded. 

Failure to annex a copy of a valid decree renders the appeal incompetent.

When a memorandum of appeal is admitted, the High Court or the proper officer (Registry Officer/ Court Clerk) must endorse on it the date of presentation, and then register it in a book called the Register of Appeals.

The court will call for the record of the trial court.

On receipt of the record, the Registrar or the District Registrar will submit the record and the memorandum of appeal to the judge.

The judge may reject it (i.e. reject an appeal in limine without calling upon or hearing the parties) or assign it to another judge for a hearing.  Once accepted, the magistrate/judge orders the issuance of summons and the process for hearing the appeal continues normally.

The court hearing the appeal may decide the appeal after hearing the arguments of the parties or may remand the case for re-trial or for taking further evidence to the court which tried the suit, or may itself take further evidence before deciding the appeal.

on deciding the appeal, the appellate court may dismiss or allow/grant the appeal and make any other order it may think fits.

If an appeal is granted, the trial court decision ceases to operate and the appellate court decision prevails. Here the appellant will be termed as the winner and he will have the power to implement/execute the decision at hand.

Once your appeal is dismissed, that means you have lost it; what happens is, the decision of the trial court will prevail. Here you may decide to appeal again to the higher court, but once the court which dismissed your appeal is the highest, then everything ends there and the winner will proceed to execute the trial court decision.

Either way, parties must comply with any orders which will be provided by the appellate court.

What are the grounds for appeal?

Grounds of appeal are the matters of law or/and facts on which the judgment, ruling, decree, or order appealed from are sought to be varied or reversed. 

The grounds of appeal must be stated (numbered consecutively) in the memorandum of appeal.

Examples of grounds for appeal in civil cases include;

  1. The trial court had no jurisdiction to entertain the matter
  2. The suit was hopelessly time bared
  3. That, the trial magistrate erred in law and in fact when decided the matter in favor of the respondent with insufficient evidence on the case file.
  4. That, the trial court misdirected itself on the issue of adverse possession when mixed it up with the concept of normal trespass.
  5. the law the trial court applied violates the constitution.

In framing up the grounds of appeal, the appellant has to be exhaustive; otherwise, any matter not captured in the memorandum of appeal cannot be heard in support of his appeal.

Isack Kimaro
Isack Kimaro

Isack Kimaro, a lawyer, Creative Writer and self-taught SEO expert has been a prominent author of law-related topics since 2017. Through hard work, dedication, and a relentless pursuit of knowledge, Isack has successfully navigated the legal industry by providing valuable and easy-to-understand legal information to 500,000+ individuals of all levels of understanding.