Appellate Division

After a conviction, a defendant has the right to appeal to a higher court, alleging the trial court committed legal errors. The attorneys in the Appellate Division of the DAO, led by Chief Deputy District Attorney Jerry Morano, handle these appeals.

The appellate attorneys research the legal issues raised by a defendant and then submit a written brief to the higher court. The appellate attorney may be required to attend oral arguments to defend their legal positions. 

These attorneys also handle Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petitions filed by defendants.  A defendant files a PCRA petition to seek a new trial on the basis that trial counsel performed ineffectively. The appellate attorney’s job is to provide a written response to the trial court addressing the alleged ineffectiveness claims. The trial court then decides whether a defendant’s PCRA petition merits an evidentiary hearing.

If the court holds one, the appellate attorney represents the Commonwealth at the PCRA evidentiary hearing. If the trial court denies a defendant either an evidentiary hearing or a new trial after an evidentiary hearing, a defendant may appeal to a higher court.  The appellate attorney then represents the Commonwealth in this appeal process. 

The federal courts become involved if a defendant files a federal habeas corpus petition after the exhaustion of all state procedures. The appellate attorney files a response and might have to argue or litigate the habeas claims in the federal district court, the Third Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court. The appellate attorney represents the Commonwealth in all state courts on appeal and in federal courts as well.