Inside New Mexico Appellate Court Proceedings: What You Need to Know

If you’ve been convicted of a crime or find yourself on the wrong end of a legal decision in New Mexico that you feel wasn’t fair, the appellate court may be your last chance to turn it around. 

At the Sitterly Law Firm, you can feel confident that your case will be presented clearly and concisely. With an experienced and tenacious appellate attorney in New Mexico like Nick Sitterly in your corner, you have the best possible chance for a positive outcome.

This blog post will delve into the appellate court process in New Mexico, offering valuable insights and guidance for navigating this complex legal landscape.

Understanding the Basics of the Appellate Court System in New Mexico

An appellate court is a judicial body responsible for hearing and reviewing appeals from legal decisions rendered by lower courts or administrative agencies. 

The primary function of an appellate court is to examine whether the lower court or agency correctly interpreted and applied the law during the original trial or proceeding. Appeals may be heard for decisions based on criminal litigation, civil litigation, and business litigation.

In New Mexico, there is the Court of Appeals, which is an intermediate appellate court, and the New Mexico Supreme Court, which is the highest appellate court in the state. 

The Court of Appeals hears appeals from district courts and certain administrative agencies, and the Supreme Court has discretionary authority, meaning it can choose which cases it will hear. The Court of Appeals has mandatory jurisdiction in certain types of cases, meaning it must hear appeals in specific situations.

The Difference Between Appellate Courts and Trial Courts

Appellate and trial courts serve distinct functions within the judicial system. A trial court is where legal disputes are initially heard and resolved. Trial courts determine the facts of a case, apply the law to those facts, and make decisions or render verdicts.

In an appellate court, cases are not retried, and no new evidence is presented.

Instead, they review the decisions of lower trial courts or administrative agencies to ensure the law was correctly applied and proper legal procedures followed. 

Appellate courts focus on legal issues, arguments from appeal lawyers, and interpretations rather than re-evaluating facts.

The Role of Appellate Judges

The primary responsibility of appellate judges is to review decisions made by trial courts and determine whether legal errors were made or if there are grounds for reversing or modifying the original ruling.

An appellate judge performs several critical roles in the judicial process:

  • Reviewing legal issues
  • Ensuring due process
  • Interpreting precedent
  • Setting legal standards
  • Ensuring consistency in the law
  • Correcting errors
  • Adjudicating constitutional issues
  • Writing opinions


Breaking Down the Appeals Process

The appeals process generally involves several stages, each with specific procedures. The first step is to file a notice of appeal within a specified timeframe after the trial court’s final judgment or order. The timeframe for filing a notice of appeal in New Mexico is within 30 days after the judgment. 

The appellate court reviews the notice of appeal to ensure it has jurisdiction over the case, and the trial court compiles the record on appeal, which includes transcripts of hearings, evidence, and other relevant documents. This record serves as the basis for the appellate court’s review.

Arguments and Decisions

Your appellate lawyer will submit a written brief to outline legal arguments. These documents present the relevant legal issues, statutes, and case law, along with the parties’ interpretations. 

In some cases, the appellate court may schedule oral arguments where attorneys for both parties present their case and respond to questions from the appellate judges. Oral arguments provide an opportunity for clarification and further exploration of the legal issues.

Once all the arguments have been made and all the information presented, the appeals court will issue a written decision, either affirming, reversing, or modifying the lower court’s decision. The court may also remand the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. 

If the appeals court agrees with the lower court’s decision, the case is over, or it can be appealed to a higher court, which in this case is the Supreme Court of New Mexico.

It’s important to keep in mind that an appeal is not just another trial before a new judge. It’s a legal argument that’s presented on issues of the law. There is never a “guilty” or “not guilty” verdict at the end of the appeals process. 

The outcomes are limited to a few specific possibilities: 

  • To affirm the decision of the trial court
  • To reverse the decision of the trial court
  • To remand the case to the trial court


The appeals process can be complex, and with so much riding on the outcome, finding the right appellate court attorney is crucial.

Get Expert Appellate Representation in New Mexico at the Sitterly Law Firm

At the Sitterly Law Firm, you can expect tailored legal advice and a personalized litigation strategy based on your unique needs and challenges. Nick Sitterly is an accomplished appellate attorney in New Mexico known for being a fighter and not shying away from controversial or complex issues.

As an instructor for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, Nick travels across the country, teaching lawyers the finer points of trial law and what it takes to be successful in the courtroom and the appeals process.

Get in touch today for expert legal counsel and ensure your case is handled with the skill and attention it deserves, both in and out of the courtroom.