Appellate Practice

The right of appeal is a fundamental element of the U.S. judicial system. Federal court data has shown that fewer than 10% of total appeals result in the reversal of lower court decisions. The presence of experienced appellate counsel can improve the chances of a successful appeal, protecting favorable decisions and providing clients with the best chance of reversal of negative decisions.

Milberg’s Appellate & Major Motions Practice Group, consisting of former appellate judges, experienced appellate advocates, and former law clerks who understand how best to present compelling arguments to judges on appeal, secures justice for our clients beyond the trial courts.

Milberg’s Appellate Practice Group

Milberg’s Appellate & Major Motions Practice Group, led by Judge Martha Geer, Judge Lucy Inman, and Mark Sigmon, boasts one of the most impressive appellate benches in North Carolina—and in the country.

  • Judge Geer was first elected to the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 2002 and won reelection in 2010. During her 13-plus year tenure on the Court, Judge Geer heard more than 3,800 appeals, authored more than 1,350 opinions, and had her opinions reversed less than 2% of the time. In addition to her experience on the Court of Appeals, Judge Geer has 26 years of experience in private practice, handling appeals and complex civil litigation, including class actions, nationwide. She has also been certified by the North Carolina State Bar as a specialist in appellate practice and recognized in The Best Lawyers in America in the appellate practice category.
  • Judge Inman served as a Superior Court judge in North Carolina from 2010 through 2014, presiding in trials and hearings in communities large and small, before winning statewide election to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Among the thousands of decisions she entered as a Superior Court judge, only seven were reversed on appeal. Judge Inman served as an appellate judge from 2015 through 2022, hearing more than 1,500 appeals and authoring more than 450 appellate opinions, including decisions on issues of first impression in constitutional, criminal, civil, and administrative law. Less than 3% of her opinions were reversed.
  • Senior Counsel Mark Sigmon graduated first in his class from Duke Law School, after which he clerked for Judge Patrick Higginbotham on the Fifth Circuit for two years. Since then, and for almost 20 years, Mark has argued appeals in state and federal courts across the country. Based in North Carolina, he is a board-certified specialist in appellate practice and has been recognized by Super Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in North Carolina. Mark regularly gives CLEs on various appellate law topics, including how to write in plain English.

Other attorneys with the Milberg Appellate & Major Motions Practice Group regularly appear in all federal district courts in North Carolina, North Carolina’s trial and appellate courts, and courts nationwide. They have served in numerous leadership positions within the legal community, including the Wake County Bar Association, the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, and the North Carolina Bar Association.

What Sets the Milberg Appeals Team Apart

Although defense counsel almost always has specialized appellate and major motions counsel, most plaintiffs’ firms do not. Their lawyers are focused on trial and on the facts, which is important, but not always enough. Without the right team, an appeal can amount to a coin toss.

Familiarity with appellate courts, the ability to develop effective appellate strategies and craft briefs likely to be persuasive at the appellate level, and the knowledge of how best to navigate the appellate are qualities key to ensuring superior legal representation to appellants.

Justices from the nation’s highest court have expressed a preference for working with appellate lawyers. Comparing trial lawyers to appellate lawyers, Justice Elena Kagan said that it can be, “as if [trial lawyers] are arguing with one hand tied behind their back.” And Justice Sonia Sotomayor has suggested it is “malpractice” for a trial lawyer to argue an appeal when appellate lawyers are available.

When appealing a case, whether at the state or federal level, experience matters. Few plaintiffs’ firms can match the collective appellate experience of Milberg attorneys.

Notable Appellate Case Decisions

Since Milberg’s founding in 1965, the firm has repeatedly represented clients in cases that have set legal precedents and recovered over $50 billion in verdicts and settlements. Some of our notable appellate cases include:

  • Successfully defended a $10 million trial verdict in the Ninth Circuit, in an employment discrimination case against IBM, over a dissent.
  • In the Fourth Circuit, overturned the dismissal of a case against IBM for IBM’s wrongful withholding of commissions to salespersons, after which the firm settled numerous similar cases against IBM for more than $10 million.
  • Filed appellee brief in Seventh Circuit defending a district court’s holding that a contract was unconscionable, which allowed plaintiff who claimed that his biometric information was stolen by a college exam software monitoring company to proceed. The case settled soon after the brief was filed.
  • Successfully defended in North Carolina Supreme Court certification of a class of builders who had paid an illegal fee, later leading to settlement worth over $5 million.
  • Successfully defended in various North Carolina appellate courts claims by builders that fees that they had paid were illegal, later leading to settlements worth over $100 million.
  • Successfully defended on appeal to state Supreme Court a jury verdict worth more than $2 million in a complex business litigation case.