Skip to Main Content

Civil Appeals Guide: Intro and Overview

Quick Links

San Diego Law Library


The San Diego Law Library is San Diego's access point to legal information, resources, and referrals to help you. Click here for hours and partner locations or contact us at or 619-531-3900.



An appeal is a proceeding in which a higher court reviews the actions taken by a lower court. It is very different from a trial.

An appeal is NOT a "do over" of the original case; new evidence usually cannot be introduced. The Court of Appeal will only review the Trial Court's application of the law to the facts. The reviewing court will typically only reverse a decision if a serious mistake was made in applying the law. If the Court of Appeals finds an error, it will send the case back to the trial court to make the correction.

This guide will assist you in starting your research on how to appeal a civil court decision.

For limited civil cases (disputes involving $25,0000 or less), small claims cases, and traffic court appeals. please see our Research Guide entitled Appeals from Limited Civil, Misdemeanor and Infraction Cases, Small Claims, and from Appellate Division of Superior Court Rulings

Should You Appeal?

This video from the California Courts provides information about the appeals process and can help you decide whether or not an appeal is an appropriate choice for you. See the Resources page for information about other self-help videos on the appeal process that are available on the California Appellate Courts Self-Help Resource Center website.


Remember, a civil appeal is not a trial. It is an opportunity to correct previous legal errors that were prejudicial to your case. It will be heard by a panel of three judges at the appropriate Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal that hears cases being appealed from San Diego Superior Court is the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One which has jurisdiction over cases from San Diego and Imperial Counties.

There are heavy procedural processes involved and it is very important that you follow procedure carefully. This Guide will get you started, and refer you to resources which will assist you.

In general, appellate cases are procedurally governed by California Rules of Court 8.100 et seq. Other rules or codes may also apply, including the Local Rules of the Fourth District Court of Appeals.