Appeals are a way to ask a higher court to review the work of a lower court. Depending on the law, there are two ways that appeals work. First, a case can be reviewed de novo by the higher court, which means the higher court takes a fresh look at all of the information, similar to a retrial. Second, a case can be reviewed only for mistakes, in which case the court doesn’t re-do the case, but simply reviews possible legal or factual errors pointed out by the person appealing.
There usually must be a legal basis for the appeal -- an alleged material error in the trial and not just the fact that the losing party didn't agree with the verdict.
Appeals take months and can be expensive. There will be fees and costs such as filing fees, paying for a transcript, etc. Most of these fees are not waivable by the court.
More information about appeals is available from Justia and from WomensLaw.org.
Administrative agencies are official government bodies that have the power and authority to direct, supervise, and implement certain legislative acts or statutes. Not all administrative agencies have the term “agency” in the title. Many are referred to as boards, departments, divisions, or commissions, (e.g., Department of Licensing, Board of Tax Appeals, Sentencing Guidelines Commission). A directory with a list of government agencies is available from the state.
When administrative agencies hold hearings, such as a driver’s license suspension hearing or an unemployment benefits hearing, you have the right to have an administrative review of that decision if you lose. When you lose an administrative hearing, you will get instructions on how to appeal.
Sometimes you can appeal directly to the Superior Court, but sometimes there is an appeal within the agency before you can appeal to Superior Court. You need to read the instructions carefully to find out what the process and timeline is for your particular agency.
Chapter 34.05 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) contains the laws governing most administrative appeals.
Additional information about administrative appeals includes:
- Information about appeals for a few specific agencies from Washington LawHelp
- A guide to administrative appeals from the King County Law Library
Self-help kit from the law library
The law library sells an Appeal a Driver's License Suspension self-help kit with forms and instructions to file an appeal to the Superior Court regarding an administrative decision made by the Department of Licensing suspending a driver's license. Kits can be purchased at the library or online and mailed out.
Appeals from District Court to Superior Court
If your case was decided in District Court (including small claims), you can consider filing an appeal of the decision by requesting that a Superior Court judge hear your case.
Appeals from District Court (including small claims cases) are governed by the Washington State Court Rules for Appeal of Decisions of Courts of Limited Jurisdiction (RALJ). These rules are supplemented by Clark County Superior Court local rules.
An overview of the appellate process is available from King County.
District Court has instructions for appeals and some forms including the Notice of Appeal and the Designation of Record.
Additional information about appealing a small claims decision is available from:
Appeals from Superior Court to the Court of Appeals
If your case was decided in Superior Court, you can consider filing an appeal of the decision by requesting that the Washington State Court of Appeals hear your case.
Appeals to the Court of Appeals are governed by the Washington State Court Rules of Appellate Procedure (RAP). The State Court's Appellate Case Processing Guide has information about steps in the process and a collection of sample forms to assist with filing an appeal. The forms are provided for their illustrative content so you will need to format and customize them for your situation.
The King County Law Library offers an infographic with an outline of the appellate process.
The Appellate Court Public Document Portal provides online access to files and documents for cases filed with the Washington State Supreme Court and Court of Appeals after January 1, 2020. This access allows people to see briefs that were filed in other cases. Briefs in similar cases can be helpful as a starting point to write your own brief.
No registration is needed to search for documents using this free service. A case number is required for each search. As with other electronic court records, files that are sealed or confidential will not be available. The portal will not provide links to local trial court records. See the list of FAQs for information about using this service, including finding case numbers.
Self-help kit from the law library
The law library sells a Start an Appeal from Superior Court to the Court of Appeals self-help kit with forms and instructions to file an appeal of a Superior Court decision to the Court of Appeals. It includes some information about writing the Appellant's Brief and a Reply Brief as well as attending your hearing. Kits can be purchased at the library or online and mailed out.
Revision of a commissioner’s decision
If your case was heard by a court commissioner instead of a judge, this process can be used to ask a judge to change an order or judgment entered by the commissioner.
The process for revision is addressed in Section 2.24.050 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW).
Clark County Superior Court Local Rule 53.2 governs the procedure and describes how to file a motion for revision of a commissioner's written order.
If you filed a family law case, Washington LawHelp has information and forms about how to File a Motion for Revision in a Family Law Case