4 Brief-Writing Tips from the Delaware Supreme Court

Last Monday’s post covered the Delaware Supreme Court’s tips on oral argument. In their interviews with the Delaware Lawyer, the Justices also offered tips on how to write briefs:

Delaware Supreme Court

Delaware Supreme Court

Tell a Story – Briefs should tell a story that includes both the good and bad points of your case, written in a way that the justice of your views is self-evident. To do this, use headings and sub-headings to get your story across in your table of contents.

Earlier posts described the power of story telling and suggested that lawyers tell the story with the brief’s table of contents. The Justices affirmed that these techniques are effective.

Don’t State the Obvious – Chief Justice Steele said that it most annoyed him when folks constantly repeat the standard of review for summary judgment. “We also know bedrock principles of law. You don’t need to repeat them to us.”

Justice Ridgely similarly noted that page limitations are limitations and not a goal, so lawyers may properly end their briefs early. I imagine that Justice Ridgely was smiling as he said this.

Chief Justice Roberts of the United States Supreme Court made an almost identical comment during another interview: “I have yet to put down a brief and say, ‘I wish that had been longer. . ., Almost every brief I’ve read could be shorter.”

Use the Trial-Court Order – Some members of the state Supreme Court read the opinion being appealed first, so they urged the appellant’s lawyer to address all the reasons that the trial court articulated for reaching the result it did. In turn, respondent’s lawyers should treat the trial-court opinion as a supplemental brief to the Supreme Court.

Know the Rules – Chief Justice Steele urged lawyers to understand the Court Rules before they take an appeal, including whether the lawyer preserved the issue he or she wants to raise on appeal. “We don’t like to take issues that the trial judge has not had an opportunity to address in the first instance.”

The South Carolina Supreme Court agrees, holding that it will not address an issue raised for the first time on appeal. Earlier posts explain the South Carolina rule on this.

The Delaware Lawyer article is available here.

Do you have any tips to add? Please leave a reply.






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