Judge Harry Pregerson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals co-authored a short article entitled, “The Seven Virtues of Appellate Brief Writing: An Update from the Bench,” 38 Southwestern L.Rev. 221 (2008). These virtues are:
Tell the Client’s Story – Open strong, stick to the relevant facts, and order the facts so that the reader naturally reaches your conclusion. In writing the fact statement, consider borrowing techniques from journalists and other writers.
Be clear and concise – be concise but explain all the steps in the analytical process. Enough said.
Limit the issues – don’t burden the court with non-issues that are not properly before it. Doing so may obscure issues that the court must resolve.
Respond to Opposing Counsel’s arguments – a response brief should in fact respond to opposing counsel’s arguments. A reply brief should in fact respond to the respondent’s brief. Don’t be ships passing in the night.
Complete the excerpt of record – the Ninth Circuit requires that the parties prepare and file excerpts of the record. Make sure the excerpt is complete without including the kitchen sink.
Follow the rules – follow the court’s local rules. These rules were not adopted to vex litigants but to give some uniformity and fairness.
Meet the deadlines – deadlines help ensure efficiency and fairness. Failing to adhere to them is a serious transgression. Don’t wait until the last minute to ask for additional time or to submit additional authorities.
The article ends with a helpful checklist for editing.
Any tips to add? Please leave a reply.