Handling appeals represents a distinct form of advocacy. Appellate courts do not take evidence or adjudicate facts like a trial court. Instead, they consider only discrete legal issues arising out of one party's challenge to an order or judgment of a trial court. Appellate lawyers for the US Attorney's Office carefully review the records of trial court proceedings, prepare detailed written briefs, and in most cases, argue their appellate cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit which is based in St. Louis, Missouri. Eighth Circuit appellate decisions are generally precedential and govern the disposition of subsequent similar issues litigated in the trial courts of all seven states within the Eighth Circuit, not just South Dakota's federal district courts.
The Appellate Division's caseload involves a wide variety of legal issues and different types of substantive law. In many cases, it represents the Government in appeals filed by criminal defendants who are seeking appellate review of their convictions or sentences. Roughly half of these cases involve violent crimes committed in Indian country. The remainder of the criminal appeals deal with other federal offenses such as large-scale drug conspiracies, immigration and firearms offenses, and child pornography cases.
The Appellate Division also handles civil appeals which result from civil claims brought by the Government or against it. These appellate cases include defending against tort claims brought by individuals or representing federal agencies in challenges to their administrative actions. Civil appeals can also include cases in which the United States has brought an action to advance or enforce a federal right.
Kevin Koliner, Chief, Appellate Division, US Attorney's Office, District of South Dakota