Attorneys still have the ability to contact inmates via Skype, Zoom, Face-time, or other video chats during the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, shut-ins at nursing homes can be contacted by attorneys because the legal profession is deemed an “essential service” by state and federal governments. Most of these contacts are actually easier for the attorney than a face-to-face visit because the attorney does not have to leave their office. The attorney instead merely sets up a video visit time with the nursing home, jail or prison and then uses a laptop computer or cell phone for the visit, telling the nursing home, jail or prison how long the visit is expected to take. For the inmates, these visits are confidential, so the attorney/client privilege is not violated. For shut-ins, it depends on the circumstances of the shut-in’s health or understanding. Recently, I’ve had incarcerated clients ask that I check on family members they have not spoken to recently because of COVID-19. I simply call the loved one, then send a note to the client on how the loved one is doing. Most attorneys will offer a similar courtesy, if asked. If you need an attorney, and your case is on appeal anywhere in Tennessee, or your civil or criminal case is in the Montgomery County, Tennessee area, call attorney Gregory D. Smith at 931/647-1299.

It is a common misconception among defendants in criminal cases that they should use the same criminal defense attorney for both the original trial and the appeal. However, the lawyer that represented you during your initial criminal case might not be the best person for the job.

An appeal is not a new trial. It is a completely unique process that requires special legal skills, knowledge and experience. It is important to select your appellate lawyer wisely — and to understand that this might not be the same person who has represented your initial case.

Lack of special skills

An appellate attorney understands the distinctive traits of an appeal versus a criminal trial. He or she should have gone to school specifically for appeals and have experience in this area of law in Tennessee. Your criminal defense attorney, on the other hand, may lack the key skills necessary to excel in the appellate process:

  • In-depth legal research
  • Intricate and dense legal arguments
  • Large amounts of writing
  • Oral arguments in court

There is a reason trials and appeals are two separate areas of law. They require very different skills. If you intend to proceed with the appeals process, find an attorney that specifically handles appeals.

No experience with the unique appeals process

Filing an appeal in Tennessee not only takes certain skills but also has a special process. The case may go to the Court of Criminal Appeals, the state Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court during the different appellate phases. Your criminal defense attorney is unlikely to have the same amount of experience handling this complicated process as an appellate attorney.

No rapport with the Court of Appeals

An appellate attorney can have a history of handling cases with the Court of Appeals in your county. The lawyer most likely has a network of people he or she knows within the Court of Appeals, as well as a history with appellate court judges. These connections could help your appeal case but are not something your defense lawyer may be able to offer.

If you are in Tennessee, a federal court of appeals, or a military court of appeals and have questions about appeals or appellate attorneys, call the Law Office of Gregory D. Smith, 931/647-1299 or visit Mr. Smith is listed in Mid-South Super Lawyers and is A-V rated by Martindale-Hubbell. You can read a featured article about Mr. Smith and his work in Federal Indian Law appeals in the November, 2019 ABA Journal, (the national magazine of the American Bar Association), at

If you are not familiar with appealing a court judgment, you may wonder who can make an appeal in the first place. Do both sides have an equal opportunity to appeal a Tennessee court decision, and does it work the same way in civil litigation and in criminal prosecutions? The U.S. Courts website provides answers to these important questions. If you are considering an appeal to a court judgment, you should have a reasonable idea of how to proceed.

When it comes to cases involving suing another party in court, either side has a right to appeal a judgment to an appellate court. It does not matter whether the case was decided by a jury or a judge. However, the right to appeal can be waived if the parties decide to settle the case without pursuing a decision from a jury or the bench. If a settlement is agreed to, there can be no appeal.

Appeals work differently in criminal cases. If a person is found guilty of a crime, the defendant has the option to appeal the verdict. This is not the case if the person is acquitted. A prosecutor cannot appeal a not guilty verdict to try to get a new trial because it would violate Fifth Amendment protections against double jeopardy. However, if the defendant pleads guilty, the right to an appeal is typically waived.

However, there is room for both a defendant and a prosecutor to retain the right to appeal a sentence imposed after a verdict of guilty. A defense attorney may argue that the sentence does not comply with the requirements of the law. A prosecutor can appeal on the grounds of a similar argument. Either side might also claim that the sentence violates sentencing guidelines or otherwise deviates from the guidelines.

Anyone inexperienced in matters concerning appealing a judgment can benefit from asking a professional appeals attorney to gain a better understanding of the subject. Remember that this article is only intended to inform you about appeals and not to give you any legal advice.

If you are in Tennessee and have questions about rules regarding appeals, call the Law Office of Gregory D. Smith, 931/647-1299 or visit Mr. Smith is listed in Mid-South Super Lawyers and is A-V rated by Martindale-Hubbell. You can read a featured article about Mr. Smith’s work in appellate courts in the November, 2019 ABA Journal, (the national magazine of the American Bar Association), at