"I worked as a briefing attorney on the First Court of Appeals in Houston. There I learned how to write in a way that would convince appellate justices. This is not a skill that is acquired easily, and it is not a skill that I learned in law school. Rather, successful appellate representation turns on a manner of thinking and a way of writing that can only be acquired by employing these skills on a regular basis."
- Niles Illich, Dallas Appeals Attorney
Meet Your Attorney, Niles Illich
At Scott H. Palmer, P.C., our Dallas appeals attorney, Niles Illich, has the experience, talents, and knowledge to effectively handle your appeal. During his former clerkship with the Honorable Evelyn V. Keyes, Ph.D. of the First Court of Appeals in Houston, Texas, Niles wrote draft opinions for the justices, read many briefs, and sat in on conferences with the justices. Through these experiences, he acquired the skills to identify issues that may influence the justices’ decisions and write persuasive arguments. With Scott H. Palmer, P.C., Niles has strengthened his skills as a Dallas appellate attorney by his colleagues providing constructive feedback on his arguments.
Niles is licensed in:
- Texas state and appellate courts
- Northern, Eastern, and Southern Districts of Texas
- Fifth Circuit (Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi federal appeals)
- Seventh Circuit (Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin federal appeals)
- Eighth Circuit (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, and Arkansas federal appeals)
- Ninth Circuit (Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, and Montana federal appeals)
- Tenth Circuit (Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming federal appeals)
- Eleventh Circuit (Alabama, Florida, and Georgia federal appeals)
- U.S. Supreme Court
Niles has handled more than 100 criminal appeals to opinion and participated in over 40 oral arguments in state and federal court. He is board-certified in criminal appellate law and is prepared to leverage his insights to seek the best possible result for your appeal.
Why Does It Matter That Niles Is Board Certified?
Board Certification is an objective mark of excellence and distinguished accomplishment within the Texas legal community. Including judges, district attorneys, law professors, and retired attorneys there are only 132 attorneys in Texas who are board-certified in Criminal Appellate Law. Niles is one of them. Put his recognized expertise, experience, and education to use on your case.
Niles focuses his practices solely on appellate work. He is passionate about what he does and is committed to delivering superior legal counsel to his clients. Reach out to him as soon as possible to discuss your situation.
What Is the Appeals Process?
Often, people are familiar with the criminal or civil trial process because of the numerous depictions in movies and on television (although these are distorted portrayals of what goes on). However, the appeals process is an unfamiliar concept. When a client reaches out to our Dallas appeals attorney, Niles Illich, the initial discussion typically involves an overview of the process. The explanation helps our clients understand what to expect and may ease some of the tension they feel because they know that various legal avenues are available to pursue remedy.
Below are the stages of an appeal:
Filing Motions and Notices
The appeals process begins after the court clerk and court reporter file their records and the court’s judgment is entered. Once this happens, the attorney can submit a motion for a new trial and a notice of direct appeal. For state cases, the notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days; for federal, 14 days. Some exceptions may be granted concerning the filing deadlines.
At the time the notices are filed, the appeals lawyer may also request the court record. The court record is a transcript of the trial and includes the evidence presented.
Drafting the Brief
The brief is the most important document in an appeal. About 90% of an appeals attorney’s time is spent crafting this document. It contains the arguments the appellant is making and states the reason they are seeking remedy. The brief must be well-written and compelling. As such, it is no short document. Limits exist to how long they can be: State briefs, 15,000 words; federal briefs, 13,000 words.
The brief specifies what remedy the appellant is seeking based on the issue that occurred. For instance, if the appellant argues that:
- The court did not allow evidence to be admitted that should have been, they may seek a new trial.
- They were convicted based on insufficient evidence, they may request an acquittal.
- They were sentenced erroneously, they may ask for a new sentence.
The appellee will also submit a brief containing their arguments. The appellant may want to file a reply brief in response to the appellee.
Making Oral Arguments
Oral arguments are not always a component of the appeals process. It is at the court’s discretion whether they occur.
Note that no new witnesses are called upon nor new evidence presented during oral arguments. Oral arguments reiterate what is contained in the brief. They also provide an opportunity for the justices to ask clarifying questions about each side’s claims.
Issuing an Opinion
After the justices review each side’s briefs and hear oral arguments (if granted), they will determine whether remedy is necessary. One possible outcome is the appellate court affirming the trial court's decision. This result means that the verdict or judgment stands.
The other possible outcome is the appellate court’s reversal of the trial court's decision. If this happens, the appellate court may order:
- A new trial,
- Modifications to the judgment, or
- Reconsider the facts of the case.
Helping Individuals With a Variety of Appellate Matters
Dallas Criminal Appeals Attorney
An appeal may be brought in a criminal case if a legal error influenced the outcome or sentencing. All types of state and federal criminal issues may be considered for appeal.
Our criminal appeals lawyer in Dallas handles a range of matters, including, but not limited to:
- Aggravated robbery: These appeals are interesting yet complicated. The brief must be carefully crafted and often argues that juror misconduct or insufficient evidence affected the decision.
- Burglary: These are technical matters requiring a brief that commands the trial court’s attention.
- Drug offenses: The brief developed for a state or federal controlled substance appeal must stand out. If the matter does not get proper attention, the justices might see it as just another drug case and affirm the trial court’s decision.
- Murder: These are some of the most challenging cases to appeal. As such, the brief must be well-thought-out and have numerous exhibits attached. Often, the appeals are focused on moving toward a writ of habeas corpus.
- Sexual assault: Any state or federal matter involving sexual misconduct is challenging, both at trial and appeal. They involve nuanced procedures and long sentencing. Stellar appellate representation is crucial.
- Theft: Theft is considered a crime of moral turpitude. Thus, a conviction can have lasting ramifications, such as making it difficult to get a job or not being eligible to serve on a jury. Whether the crime was charged as a misdemeanor or felony, it is vital to appeal an erroneous decision or sentence.
The Court of Criminal Appeals is the highest court in Texas that hears criminal matters. However, it has the discretion to decide whether it hears an appeal. Yet, it has granted leave to hear cases our attorneys have brought.
Dallas Civil Appeals Attorney
Civil appeals involve a range of matters.
Our civil appeals lawyer in Texas provides representation in state and federal courts for:
- Employment law appeals: The issue on appeal is typically the granting of a summary judgment. The decision may be overturned by developing a persuasive brief.
- Family law appeals: The court’s discretion in deciding family law matters is broad. Still, its decisions must follow the Texas Family Code and Rules of Civil Procedure. An appeal typically argues that the judgment was based on a deviation from the law and rules.
- Commercial law disputes: Regardless of whether the matter involves a conflict between two entities or a contract dispute, it is necessary to file a motion for a new trial and develop a carefully planned brief.
- Business disputes: Although business disputes are personal for the parties involved, the appellate court does not see them this way. Therefore, the brief must present arguments that highlight the legal issues.
- Personal injury claims: Often, attorneys arguing personal injury cases play on the jury’s emotions. Because of this, the judgments are likely to be overturned on appeal.
In addition to the matters listed above, Niles also handles property division, foreclosures, shareholder liability, and protective orders issues. Whatever decision you are appealing, turn to him for the legal help you need.
Dallas Sales Tax Appeals Lawyer
Niles represents clients facing sales tax assessments by the State Comptroller’s Office. He finds this appellate work enjoyable.
Dallas Sex Offender Appeals Attorney
Sex offender appeals are extremely challenging. In many cases, not much can be done to seek remedy. That said, Niles works diligently to find innovative solutions for his clients. He has provided representation for DPS administrative processes and mandamus proceedings to remove the sex offender registration requirement.
Dallas Writs and Motions Lawyer
Writs can be complicated matters, as they demand a significant amount of time, attention to detail, and research. Niles dedicates the effort necessary to develop a basis for a defense and finds this work intellectually satisfying.
He provides representation for:
- Writs of habeas corpus
- Writs of mandamus
- 2254/2255 motions
Click the links below to read articles written by Niles Illich:
The Thirteenth Amendment and One Hundred and Fifty Years of Struggle to Criminalize Slavery: A First Amendment Challenge to the Forced Labor Act (18 U.S.C. § 1589), St. Mary’s Law Journal, Vol. 52 No. 4, November 4, 2021.
Juvenile Certifications: Post-Moon and Thomas, where are we?, Voice for the Defense Online, October 4, 2021.
A Call for Harmonization Between the Rules of Criminal and Civil Procedure, The Federal Lawyer, March/April 2021.
Click on the below links to watch recordings of oral arguments:
- Christopher Braughton v. State of Texas (in the Court of Criminal Appeals)
- Gregory Webb v. United States of America (Seventh Circuit, Chicago)
Verdict Reversed Continuous Sexual Assault of a Child
The Sixth Court of Appeals reversed the judgment and remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial on lesser offenses.
Case Dismissed Indictment
Verdict Reversed Murder
Fifth Court of Appeals reversed the verdict, vacated the judgment, and remanded for a new trial with the proper jury instructions. Client offered plea of 7 years, rendering him instantly parole eligible.
Verdict Reformed to Lesser Offense Continuous Sexual Assault of a Child
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously reversed the Tenth Court of Appeals, vacated the client’s sentence, reformed the verdict to reflect a conviction for a lesser-included offense and remanded for a new sentencing hearing.
Case Dismissed Drug Possession
Fifth Court of Appeals agreed with us and suppressed the illegally seized evidence. Charges dismissed against our client.
Removed Client from Registry Indecent Exposure
Department of Public Safety agreed in part and removed client from registry for one of two offenses. Second offense was challenged through mandamus to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Case Settled Failure to Pay Sales Tax
We argued that client never owed the sales tax because the item was not taxable. We challenged this through the entire administrative process with the Office of the Comptroller and the State Office for Administrative Hearings.
Verdict Reversed Murder
Fifth Court of Appeals reversed the verdict, vacated the judgment, and remanded for a new trial with the proper jury instructions.