In most civil and criminal cases, each party has the right to appeal the decision to a different court. The issues heard on appeal, however, are limited to questions of law considered in the trial court. A trial judge's decision about what the law is or whether to admit testimony is generally reviewable, but a jury's (or judge's) decision to believe or disbelieve properly admitted evidence is reviewable only for abuse of discretion or insufficiency of evidence.
Most district court appeals are filed directly to the Supreme Judicial Court. Small claims appeals and eviction (Forcible Entry and Detainer) appeals are filed in the Superior Court.
Appeals from the Superior Court may be taken to the Supreme Judicial Court. The Supreme Judicial Court is the State's highest court and the court of final appeal. It has seven justices, presided over by the Chief Justice, the head of the Judicial Branch.
The Court's major job is to decide appeals on questions of law that arise in civil actions and criminal trials. Questions of law are presented to the Court when a case is appealed from a trial court. Parties or their lawyers present written briefs and oral arguments outlining their respective positions. The justices reflect on the questions presented and issue a written opinion deciding the issues in accordance with the Court's view of the law and reversing or affirming the lower court's decision or a brief memorandum of decision briefly describing the outcome in a particular case.
The Guide for Appeals to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court (last update 2009) is a general overview of the steps for appealing cases to the Law Court.
Please see How to File a Civil Appeal (CV-092) for general information on deadlines and the steps involved in many civil appeals.
You can search for Notice of Appeals forms on the Judicial Branch Forms webpage at