St. Mary's Law Journal


W. Wendell Hall


Applying and defining the accurate standard of review determines how likely an appeal will be successful. While the proper standard of review may be easy to identify, applying the standard of review to a case is often problematic. The standards define the interactions between trial and appellate courts by distributing the power of review throughout the judicial branch. The standards of review also limit a court’s authority to determine an error by a trial court, and whether the error warrants reversal. The standard sets the requirements of substantive law and provides a means for appellate judges to weigh arguments. This basis allows litigants to analyze their arguments against the framework required by the standard of review to draft a persuasive and effective brief. The standard of review is a critical factor of tantamount importance. Because the appropriate standard and scope of review typically define an appeal outcome, a litigant must present arguments satisfying the relevant standards applicable to the relevant evidence. The courts must carefully distinguish the standards of review from the scopes of review. The standard of review identifies whether a trial court committed an error, while the scope of review enumerates what the reviewing court will examine to decide if the trial court committed an error. Some standards of review are difficult to define. However, it is critical that litigants not only apply the correct standard but understand the requirements of the standard as well. Appellate Courts use the standards as guides to identify the relevant questions in a case. These same standards can also guide litigants on the proper structure necessary for a persuasive argument.


St. Mary's University School of Law