The Appellate Brief


Table of Authorities.

The Table of Authorities enables a judge to turn immediately to the pages of your brief discussing a particular case. It is an important and timesaving cross-reference when reading the briefs and while writing the opinion.

Issue Presented.

The Issue Presented is page one of your brief. It answers the question for the judge. What do I have to decide?

Statement of the Case.

The Statement of the Case first describes the pertinent procedural history of the case and then the facts. The idea is to give the judge a preliminary sense of how the case got there and what must be decided. Is it a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to support a jury verdict? Was the complaint dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted? You must demonstrate that the issue presented was properly raised below and that a timely notice of appeal was filed.

Statement of Facts.

The Statement of Facts is usually the most important section of the brief. Tell the story of the case. Document each fact with a record reference. Save the argument for later.

The Argument.

Your brief should address the standard of review. On a pure question of law, the appellate court makes its own de novo determination of what the rule of law should be. Abuse of discretion is a standard that defers to the trial judge’s decision to some extent. Your brief must address what standard of review the court should apply. The Argument section of the brief is where you must demonstrate your legal reasoning.

The Conclusion.

The Conclusion must be specific about the relief you want. If possible, alternate relief should be set forth.


Reproducing the text of statutes and regulations helps the appellate court refer to law without the necessity of doing excessive legal research.

Writing Tools

In addition to thorough legal research through sources such as Lexis, Westlaw and LOISLAW, a good dictionary and thesaurus are necessary. You must also have available Black’s Law Dictionary, Richardson on Evidence and The Bluebook on legal citations.

Depending on your budget, you may want to use an appellate printer. If this is not an option, office printing centers can offer you grades of paper in conformity to appellate court rules as well as indexing and binding for a professional presentation.


Appellate practice requires adherence to service and filing rules which each appellate court has set forth.