Legal Services Appellate Unit
The right to appeal is firmly established in Connecticut. The Legal Services Unit is responsible for representing eligible people on direct appeal and in habeas appeals, to review the fairness and the process by which our clients were convicted or lost their habeas cases. To qualify for representation on direct appeal, a person must have been convicted of a crime and have a risk of incarceration, and additionally must have been found indigent by a trial court judge. To qualify for representation in a habeas appeal, a person must have lost his or her habeas case, and must have been found indigent by a trial court judge.
An appeal is a review of the on-the-record proceedings in the trial court. Because it involves reviewing what happened in the trial court, no new evidence is allowed to be presented in an appeal. The appellate lawyer reads the entire transcript of the trial court proceedings, reviews the exhibits and the entire court file (including any motions and requests to charge filed by trial attorneys) identifies possible legal errors, and researches the law applicable to the case. The lawyer then writes what is called a brief, which is a report to the higher court about what happened in the trial court, and involves the presentation of claims of error. After all the briefs in the case are filed, the lawyer appears for oral argument before judges of the Appellate Court or justices of the state Supreme Court, to discuss the claims of error presented in the briefs, and to answer any questions the judges or justices have. Appeals are not decided at the time of oral argument; it typically takes months before the decision is known.
In addition to representing clients on appeal, the Legal Services Unit plays a very significant role in assisting trial attorneys. Our attorneys assist in assuring that there is a proper record for appeal, and in raising novel and important legal issues so that they can be decided by our appellate courts. Legal Services Unit attorneys are available to assist trial attorneys with drafting and arguing motions, requests to charge, preserving the record for appeal, strategizing, and any other litigation support a trial attorney requests