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Word Count: 932
Most legal disputes involving state law are initially decided in the trial courts or by an administrative agency But after such a decision an individual may turn to the states appeal courts if he or she believes a legal error occurred that harmed the case In fact thousands of cases are appealed every year1 They include criminal convictions as well as civil cases involving personal injury contracts employment real estate probate divorce child custody and many other issues Whenever an appellate court reverses a trial court decision it almost always allows that court to rehear the case using the correct law and procedures In the vast majority of cases the decision of a Court of Appeal is final The state Supreme Court does not review the vast majority of cases it steps in to resolve new or disputed questions of law as well as to review death penalty cases Death penalty cases proceed directly to the Supreme Court bypassing the lower Court of Appeal The appellate courts of California consist of the Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeal The judges who serve on these courts are called appellate justices There are seven justices on the Supreme Court and 93 justices on the Courts of Appeal The Courts of Appeal are divided into six geographical districts and hear cases arising within the district Proceedings in appellate courts are very different from those in trial courts In trial courts a judge or jury hears the testimony of witnesses and reviews physical evidence exhibits and documents before deciding a case Appellate courts do not decide an appeal by taking new evidence or reassessing the credibility of the witnesses who testified in the trial court Instead they review the written record to determine if the trial court properly interpreted the law and used the correct procedures when considering the case The opposing parties submit written documents called briefs to assert their position The parties also participate
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