DEFINITION of 'De Novo Judicial Review'

De novo judicial review describes a review by a court of appeals of a trial court’s decision. De novo judicial review is used in questions of how the law was applied or interpreted. It is a nondeferential standard of review, meaning it does not place weight on the previous court’s finding. A de novo judicial review can reverse the trial court’s decision. "De novo" is a Latin expression meaning "anew," "from the beginning," "afresh." The term de novo judicial review is often also referred to as de novo appeal or simply, de novo review.

BREAKING DOWN 'De Novo Judicial Review'

In employment matters, de novo judicial review may be used to re-examine a trial court’s decision about employee benefits or mandatory arbitration. For example, an appellate court could use de novo review to override a plan administrator’s decision in an employee’s denial of benefits lawsuit filed under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). However, the courts may decide that by giving explicit discretionary authority to the plan fiduciary, employers could be subject to a more deferential standard of review that is more beneficial to employers.

The Importance of Different Standards of Review

There are different standards of review in law, and the standard of review that applies to a case has an important role in determining the outcome of an appeal. The courts use de novo judicial review when an appeal is based on a question about how the trial court interpreted or applied the law. The appellate court examines the issue anew and does not defer to the lower court’s decision.

Other standards of review are more deferential, meaning that they place some weight on the trial court’s decision. The clearly erroneous standard of review is what an appellate court uses to determine whether an error of fact, such as dishonest testimony by a key witness, influenced the outcome of the previous trial.

Understanding how the different standards of review work and which ones apply in which circumstances is important in evaluating the likelihood of winning on appeal. A client might not want to pay their attorney to represent them in an appeal they aren’t expected to win.

In reality, trials de novo are fairly uncommon due to the time and judicial resources required to try the facts of a case more than once. However, de novo review of legal matters on appeal is quite common.

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