Steps for Drafting An Efficient Appeal Brief
While drafting an appeal brief, the main thing to understand is that you are about to handle the most significant job in the appeal process. Here are some steps to follow for drafting an effective and efficient appeal brief:
- Study the Rules
Evaluate all the applicable statutes and rules governing appellate procedure in the specific court. This will allow you to avoid malpractice while helping you learn what the court expects of you. Give meticulous consideration to time limits, deadlines, requirements for form, content of briefs, ordering transcripts, making record designations, and other subjective rules prevailing in the particular court.
- Studying the Case
The best way to study the case is to learn and memorize the records. Obtain the copies of every document filed in the trial court (by either the case parties or the court itself) including motions, legal memoranda or briefs, orders, judgments, original papers, exhibits filed, transcript of proceedings and certified copies of the docket entries prepared by the clerk of the trail court, etc. Examine these documents carefully as they will provide you with a basic outline of the case and the general ideas pertaining to potential issues for appeal.
- Statement of Case and Facts
It is fundamental to convince the court that the claim you are pleading is the right result. In this regard, the Statement of Case and Facts are crucial. The initial lines that the court reads in the brief must be the chief issue in the case and the following points must focus on why you should prevail on that issue.
- Arrange the Draft Chronologically
In instances where the relevant and significant events happened over a period of time, it can help to create a written chronology. This can be executed by browsing through the summary, extracting the testimonies regarding the applicable events, and then rearranging them into chronological order.
- Standard of Review
You should concentrate on the standard of review by deciding the issues (without prejudice) that are most likely to be dispositive in order to succeed on appeal. Then, opt for the best chance on appeal, keeping the standard of review in mind.
- Providing Proper Authorities
Generally, while researching any legal point, search for controlling authorities first. When the issue involves questions of federal law, look for a United States Supreme Court case first, or, failing that, a case from the controlling circuit. Look for persuasive authorities only if you can't find any controlling authorities.
- Analyze and Narrow the Issues
As you research and analyze the issues, you should narrow each one in order to recheck the frivolous issues and non-detrimental errors and remove any weak issue or argument. Your object is to choose only the strong issues on which compelling arguments can be made… those that will result in winning the case.
- Drafting and Editing
Prepare an outline to present your case in a rational, logical, and convincing fashion. The main objective of the brief is to convince the court, so it's advisable to make the draft as short and simple as possible. Ensure that you re-edit the copy several times before preparing your first draft. Once your outline is ready, begin writing the first draft of the brief. Once you complete this initial draft, remember to take the time to revise, polish, and refine the brief before submission.
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