California is broken up into six districts for appellate courts, also called circuit courts. Some of these districts split their appellate courts into further divisions for things like tax court, bankruptcy court and other specialized areas of interest.
Each district has three justices that are elected by the public. One serves a 4-year term, another serves an 8-year term, and the last justice serves a 12-year term. Which justice serves which term is determined by drawing lots.
Appellate courts have appellate jurisdiction over their district and the Superior Courts below them. An appeal takes place when the losing party challenges the final verdict of the Superior Court. Basically, they want a second opinion. This situation is where appellate courts come into play. Appellate courts are not trial courts. Instead, cases are decided by a panel of three judges who review the court documents from the original case and all the evidence. Their verdicts are referred to as “opinions.” These opinions are published only if “they establish a new rule of law, involve a legal issue of continuing public interest, criticizes existing law, or makes a significant contribution to legal literature (Cal. Const., art. VI, § 14; Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.1105(c)).”
Each court has a specific time limit where the losing party of a Superior Court case can file for an appeal. The appeals process can be lengthy and requires a good deal of paperwork on both sides. In some cases, oral arguments are allowed to substantiate the appeal. If the Court of Appeals upholds the original decision, the losing party has the option of taking the case to the Supreme Court for a final review. In California, the Supreme Court only grants review of 4-5% of the cases appealed.