State appeals (or appellate) courts generally decide only legal questions. Instead of receiving new evidence or otherwise retrying the case, appellate courts review the record of the trial court proceedings. Although appellate courts correct legal errors made by the trial judge, they usually accept the trial court’s findings of fact. Appellate courts also may hear appeals from state administrative agency decisions. Some states have only one appeals court (usually called the Supreme Court), but most also have an intermediate appellate court.
The U.S. Supreme Court sometimes hears appeals from decisions of the state’s highest court. The party who sues in a civil case (the plaintiff) cannot sue the defendant (the party being sued) in whatever court the plaintiff happens to prefer. Instead, the chosen court—whether a state court or a federal court—must have jurisdiction over the case. Jurisdiction is a court’s power to hear a case and to issue a decision binding on the parties. In order to render a binding decision in a civil case, a court must have not only subjectmatter jurisdiction but also in personam jurisdiction or in rem jurisdiction.
Even if a court has jurisdiction, applicable venue requirements must also be satisfi ed in order for the case to proceed in that court.