The highest appellate courts in Pennsylvania and in the federal court system have more in common than just their name. The U.S. Supreme Court and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court each possess discretion to choose the cases they will hear on appeal from lower courts. Although thousands of cases petition for permission to be heard, only about 3 percent of them are heard by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and fewer than 2 percent by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Filing A Notice Of Appeal

A significant distinction between appeals in the state and federal court systems is the difference in the time a person has to file a notice of appeal after a criminal conviction and sentencing that was touched upon previously in this chapter.

Interlocutory Orders – Differences In Federal And State Systems

Interlocutory orders are those made during or before a trial. As a general rule, interlocutory orders are not appealable except as part of the appeal filed after the conclusion of a case. For example, a judge’s ruling during a trial to allow a confession made by the defendant to be used by prosecutors as evidence of guilt cannot be appealed immediately. The defense can object to its introduction into evidence, but an appeal claiming the judge made a legal error by allowing it into evidence must wait until after the conviction and sentencing.

One difference between the federal courts and state courts, when it comes to appeals, is the ability of federal trial courts to certify an interlocutory order as an appealable question of law for immediate appellate review. State trial courts do not have this authority.

Different Rules In Different Courts

Federal appellate practice is governed by federal law and federal court rules while state appellate practice is controlled by Pennsylvania statutes and court rules. This is something that should be kept in mind when you are choosing an attorney to handle the appeal of a criminal case.

It is not unusual for a federal court to certify a question pertaining to an interpretation of state law to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Having an attorney representing you who is familiar with both court systems and the rules pertaining to appellate practice in each of them may prove beneficial to you.