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. These criminal appeals involve the defense of federal convictions and sentences arising out of federal offenses such as large-scale drug conspiracies, immigration and firearms offenses, white-collar offenses, and child pornography cases.
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 U.S. 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 Fourth Circuit which is based in Richmond, Virginia. Fourth Circuit appellate decisions are generally precedential and govern the disposition of subsequent similar issues litigated in the trial courts of all five states within the Fourth Circuit, not just North Carolina's federal district courts.