What is an appeals court? Both state and federal court systems have three layers: trial courts, appeals courts, and supreme courts. All appeals have to go to the appeals court first, and then the supreme courts take the toughest of those cases. Early in my career, I worked as an assistant for an appeals court judge in Boston, Massachusetts. When a plaintiff or defendant was unhappy with the result in a trial court, they would appeal to our court to try to get review of that decision. Some of our decisions were then reviewed by the United States Supreme Court.