Bar Media Manual

Bar Media Manual


14.1 - Overview14.2 - Direct Appeals14.3 - Crim. p. 35(b) Proceedings (Reconsideration of Sentence)14.4 - Crim. P. 35(c) Proceedings14.5 - Revocation Proceedings14.6 - Appeals to Federal Court14.7 - Appeals in Civil Cases


One of the principles of federalism, upon which our system of government is founded, is that the states are perfectly capable of performing many government functions, and that the federal government should not interfere in these areas. As a result, when a case is heard by Colorado state courts, review in the federal court system can occur only in very limited circumstances.

A criminal case cannot be appealed into the federal court system unless the appeal raises an issue of federal law. It is largely state law that governs cases in state court, but federal law, particularly federal constitutional law, may also apply. For example, a criminal defendant who claims that his federal constitutional rights were violated may seek to have that state court's final decision on the federal issue reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. That same defendant who claims only that a state constitutional right was violated, may not appeal into federal court. Relatively few cases are appealed from state court to the U.S. Supreme Court because the issue must be a federal one and because the U.S. Supreme Court has discretion whether to review the state decision.

In limited circumstances, a person who is confined as a result of a state criminal conviction can seek a "writ of habeas corpus" from a federal trial court. This remedy is limited to claims that, based on a state judgment, a person is in custody in violation of federal law., A party cannot seek such federal relief until the state court appeal process is 'exhausted.' This means that the party must make every effort to let the state court system resolve the dispute. Only if there are no more state court appeals possible may a party apply to the federal courts.

The same general rule applies to civil cases. The federal court system is not simply another opportunity for disgruntled civil litigants to continue appealing. The civil party must raise a federal issue and must make all possible efforts in state court before filing in federal court.

Cases, whether criminal or civil, that are filed in federal court can, of course, be appealed through the federal appellate court system.

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