De novo is a standard of review that comes from the Latin word meaning “anew.” If the case is reviewed de novo, it means that the reviewing court, usually an appellate court, does not need to give any deference to the decision of the lower court. The appellate court simply needs to determine the appropriate ruling and apply it.
De novo review is typically appropriate when appellate courts are determining issues of law. Lower court judges are not necessarily in better positions to determine questions of law that appellate courts are, and thus their decisions need not necessarily influence the interpretations of the appellate court.
By contrast, questions of fact may be afforded more deference and reviewed under the more-difficult-to-reverse standard of “abuse of discretion.” This is because trial court judges, having sat through the case and heard all the evidence and observed the demeanor of the witnesses, may be a better position to make findings of fact than appellate court judges, who can only go by written transcripts.