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tony vetrano
Anthony J. Vetrano
Vetrano Vetrano & Feinman LLC

Suite 215
630 Freedom Business Center Drive
King of Prussia, PA 19406

Phone: 610-265-4441
Fax: 610-265-1120


If you are disappointed with a court decision (or an administrative agency decision), you can probably appeal the decision (to a higher court).

An appeal is different from the trial court process. That is why the best remedy for a disappointing result is the fresh perspective of a new lawyer experienced with appeals.

Anthony J. (Tony) Vetrano handles appeals concerning civil (noncriminal) cases throughout Pennsylvania, and he advises trial lawyers with respect to appeals.

Mr. Vetrano can assess, objectively, possible avenues of appellate relief.

An appeal must occur within a certain amount of time; therefore, call today for a fresh review of your case.

About Anthony J. Vetrano

Anthony J. (Tony) Vetrano has handled appeals in a variety of cases, including cases concerning contracts, employee benefits, estates law, family law, fraud, and real estate.

The most important element of an appeal is the brief (the written argument submitted to the appellate court). Mr. Vetrano prepares briefs that are clear, cogent, and that address the consequential issue(s).


  • Temple University School of Law (1978)
  • Georgetown University (1975)


  • Pennsylvania
  • Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
  • U.S. Supreme Court



Don’t Take That Appeal! Why Someone Other Than The Losing Trial Attorney Should Handle The Appeal, The Pennsylvania Lawyer, January/February, 2004

Unnecessary Requirements for Valuing a Pension Plan and More Arbitrariness Established by Superior Court, Pennsylvania Bar Association Solo & Small Firm Practice Section News, Winter, 2002

Ten Tactics for Winning on Appeal, Pennsylvania Bar Association Solo & Small Firm Practice Section News, Summer/Fall, 2002

Employers May Not Give With One Hand and Take With the Other, The Corporate Counsellor, April, 2001

Employers May Not Give With One Hand and Take With the Other, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, Dec. 4, 2000

Retirement Benefits Cannot Be Divided As Part of Divorce after Participant’s Death, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, May 8, 2000

Pension Valuations in Divorce, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, May 17, 1999

Divorce Order Overrides Choice of Life Insurance Beneficiary, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, May 8, 1995

Ambiguous QDRO Sends Pension Dispute to Jury, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, Dec. 12, 1994

When Retirement Benefits Are Transferred As Part of Divorce: Who Pays to Process QDROs? Not Plan Recipients, U.S. Labor Department Says, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, Oct. 24, 1994

When A Divorcing Spouse Holds Stock Options, Pennsylvania Law Weekly


The Advantages of Having New Counsel Handle the Appeal, Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Seminar, Montgomery Bar Association, Norristown, PA, 2003

The Advantages of Having New Counsel Handle the Appeal, Meeting of Trial Lawyers Section, Montgomery Bar Association, Blue Bell, PA, 2003

Matters that Lawyers Need to be Aware of Concerning the Valuation and Transfer of Retirement Benefits, Delaware County Bar Association, Media, PA, 2002

Matters that Lawyers Need to be Aware of Concerning the Transfer of Retirement Benefits, American Bar Association, Family Law Section, Providence, R.I., 2002

The Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Seminar, Montgomery Bar Association, Employment and Labor Law Committee, Norristown, PA, 2001

Preparing Qualified Domestic Relations Orders and Dealing with Plan Administrators, Family Law Seminar, Drake University Law School and Iowa State Bar Association, Dubuque, Iowa, 2000

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Seminar, Montgomery Bar Association, Employment and Labor Law Committee, Norristown, PA, 2000

The Division and Valuation of Retirement Benefits, Montgomery Bar Association, Family Law Section, 2000

Tips on the Division of Retirement Benefits, Pennsylvania Bar Association, Family Law Section, Philadelphia, PA, 2000

Potential Pitfalls in the Division and Valuation of Retirement Benefits, Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Program, Montgomery Bar Association, 1999

Pension Valuations, Chester County Bench-Bar Conference, Annapolis, MD, 1997

The Division of Retirement Benefits, Rhode Island Family Law Inn of Court, Providence, R.I., 1997

Pension Valuations, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Equitable Distribution Update, 1996

Pension Valuations in Equitable Distribution, Montgomery Bar Association, Family Law Practicum, 1996

Divorce and the Aging Family-Retirement Benefits, Pennsylvania Bar Association, Family Law Section, Harrisburg, PA., 1996

The Aging Family: Marital Status Issues for the Older Client-Retirement Benefits, American Bar Association, Family Law Section Meeting, Beaver Creek, Colo., 1995

Divorcing the Elderly-Retirement Benefits, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, 1995

Qualified Domestic Relations Orders, American Bar Association, Family Law Section, Albuquerque, N.M., 1994

Types of Appeals

Contracts and commercial matters

Contracts can be misinterpreted. If that happens, the appellate court can correct the misinterpretation. In doing so, the appellate court does not have to defer to the trial court’s conclusions, but can draw its own inferences.

Also, trial courts cannot modify or alter contracts. In other words, trial courts cannot make a new contract for the parties; rather, they have to interpret the contract the parties made for themselves.

Domestic relations/family law

Division of marital property: When a trial court divides marital property, it cannot misapply the law or fail to follow proper legal procedure.

The aim is economic justice between the parties and a just determination of the parties’ property rights.

The division and transfer of retirement benefits is complex, and therefore this area often gives rise to mistakes.

Child custody: The paramount concern here is the best interests of the child, and this determination is made on a case-by-case basis.

The ultimate question is whether the trial court has come to unreasonable conclusions.

Child support and spouse support: The trial court has to consider properly the requirements of the Rules of Civil Procedure Governing Actions for Support, and the trial court’s judgment cannot be manifestly unreasonable or the result of partiality, prejudice, bias, or ill-will.

Alimony: The purpose of alimony is not to reward one party and punish the other, but rather to meet the reasonable needs of the person unable to support himself or herself.

Such reasonable needs are in accordance with the lifestyle and standard of living the parties established during the marriage, as well as payor’s ability to pay.

Estates and trusts

The trial court’s findings must be free from legal error and must be supported by competent and adequate evidence.

And the trial court’s findings cannot be based on arbitrary disbelief of competent and credible evidence.

Also, the appellate court is not limited in its review of the trial court’s conclusions of law.

Real estate matters

Real estate matters are largely governed by contracts, such as agreements of sale and leases.

Therefore, like any contract, such agreements can be misinterpreted or modified by trial courts, thereby creating a basis for an appeal.

Administrative agency decisions

An appeal from a decision by an administrative agency differs from an appeal from a decision by a trial court. And many of such differences are of recent vintage. Therefore, familiarity with these differences is essential for these appeals.

Why a New Lawyer on Appeal

By Anthony J. Vetrano

A lawyer who loses a trial is disheartened, tired, and maybe even angry. That is not a condition conducive to mounting a successful appeal.

In his book, “Writing to Win, The Legal Writer,” Steven Stark advises that the first way to improve an appellate brief is “to have a new lawyer come in at the appellate level” because “lawyers who do their own appeals are often wedded to their original theories and unable to notice the minor issues below that should become major ones above.” In other words, when things go wrong at the trial level, what is needed at the appellate level is a fresh perspective.

The trial lawyer is well aware of the trial’s details, but that awareness gets in the way of the broader perspective necessary to identify what is determinative in an appeal. In his litigation column for the ABA Journal, Professor James W. McElhaney has called this broader perspective the “big idea.” He describes this as the “moral imperative,” “the wrong that cries out to be set right or that has to be prevented.” It is the big idea, McElhaney says, that “should drive everything you do.”

In what is perhaps the classic work on appeals, “Effective Appellate Advocacy,” Frederick Bernays Wiener writes along the same lines when he states that “it is the ability to discern weak points, and the willingness to discard weak points, that constitute the mark of a really able lawyer.” The trial lawyer, who knows all the problems with the trial court decision, will be inclined to point them out. But the problems can include weak points that, if argued, will dilute the stronger points. A lawyer uninvolved in the trial, and therefore unaffected by what occurred there, is more objective about the strength of arguments.

The tremendous volume of appeals being filed today means that what is more important than ever is the brief’s succinctness. Steven Stark notes how too many advocates treat the process of briefing as if they were waiters at a cocktail party: “They carry around a platter of hors d’oeuvres and ask judges if they’d like one. That’s not advocacy. The [advocate’s] job is to tell judges which one to select.” Of course, a trial lawyer wants to serve a number of hors d’oeuvres — or issues — because he or she believes they are all good and therefore “worth serving.” But a lawyer who had no stake in the success or failure of the trial lawyer’s “party” — or trial — can more easily see which hors d’oeuvres did not go over well.

The rules of appellate procedure themselves demonstrate why it is essential to stay away from details. For example, the rules provide that after appellant files the notice of appeal, the lower court may direct appellant to file a “concise” statement of the matters complained of. Pa. R. App. P. 1925(b). Further, in the appellate brief, the statement of questions involved must be in the “briefest and most general terms, without names, dates, amounts, or particulars of any kind.” Pa. R. App. P. 2116(a). And the brief’s summary of argument is to be “concise,” “succinct” and “should not exceed one page and should never exceed two pages.” Pa. R. App. P. 2118. The federal rule concerning the summary of argument is quite similar. Fed. R. App. P. 28(a)(8).

The trial lawyer, who has had to deal with so much, can overlook the fundamental problems with a trial court’s decision. The author is familiar with a case in which a trial lawyer assumed the appropriate standard of appellate review was whether the trial court had abused its discretion. But the trial lawyer missed the fact that jurisdiction of the defendant had not been established. That meant that the more favorable standard of review on appeal was the lack of evidentiary support in the record for the court’s (implied) finding of jurisdiction.

The trial lawyer may also believe that having tried the case obviates the need for a careful and thorough review of the record. In other words, the thinking could be that no one knows the record as well as the lawyer who tried the case. But “knowing” the case that was tried can be a problem when that is the case that was lost. A careful, thorough review of the record is the foundation of the appeal; everything about the appeal emanates from the record. And such a review will be more effective if done with the freshness and sensitivity of a lawyer who is new to the case.

Frederick Wiener has written that because an appellate court’s aim is “to do substantial justice,” the appellate court is “sensitive to the equities of the particular case.” A lawyer uninvolved in the trial has a similar mindset because that lawyer, like the appellate court, is learning about the case for the first time and the (appellate) lawyer’s objective is identifying and addressing the injustice that has occurred.

A persuasive brief requires much thought, drafting, and redrafting. William Zinsser, in his book, “On Writing Well,” says quite simply that “writing is hard work.” And Frederick Wiener has opined that “effective brief-writing” is a process that entails “a quest for perfection.” But it is probably the rare trial lawyer who has the time for such a “quest.”

In addition, brief writing necessitates familiarity with the rules of appellate procedure. The Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure run over 100 pages, and the internal operating procedures of the Pennsylvania Supreme, Superior, and Commonwealth Courts add more. Almost another 150 pages are taken up by the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, the Local Rules of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the 3rd U.S. Circuit’s Internal Operating Procedures. A lawyer who does not normally handle appeals, and therefore has to review and study such rules before writing the appellate brief, may find this onerous.

Finally, all of the above considerations assume an appeal is justified. But such conclusion can be arrived at too quickly. The initiation of a lawsuit and then the trial of a case entail considerable investment. Hence, when a trial is lost, taking an appeal can be almost a natural impulse. Having a lawyer other than the trial lawyer review the merits of an appeal can check what may be a decision to “throw good money after bad.”

In conclusion, appeal is not simply another stage of litigation. It is a different arena, and one that probably cannot be assessed accurately without the participation of a lawyer uninvolved in the trial but experienced with the appellate process.

Tips for Trial Lawyers

The importance of the statement of errors complained of on appeal

In most appeals the trial judge requests (from the appellant) a “statement of the errors complained of on appeal.”

This is an extremely important document, mainly because any issue not properly included in such statement is deemed waived.

That means that, regardless of the issue’s significance, its absence from the statement means its absence from appellate consideration.

The statement is supposed to be concise, and each error identified in the statement is supposed to include every subsidiary issue contained therein, but the danger of waiver remains.

Often statements are too general; for example, they state the trial court “abused its discretion and/or committed errors of law.”

The best practice is for the statement to be prepared by the lawyer who will prepare the appellate brief because it is that lawyer who is looking ahead to the arguments in the brief.

In sum, such statement limits what can be argued on appeal.