Step 9: Write your brief.
As explained in Step 7 and Step 8, every state has its own specific requirements for the appellate brief. It is extremely important to consult the appellate court’s website for the relevant rules, sample briefs, and any other guidance to make sure that your brief follows all of the requirements and won’t be rejected. In addition to the specific requirements set forth in the appellate court’s rules, here are some other tips to keep in mind:
- Generally, an appellant’s first brief (“opening brief”) will require:
- a description or list of the errors you believe the trial court made;
- a statement of the facts of the case that would be necessary for the appellate court judges to understand your arguments. The facts must have been presented during trial or at some point during the litigation; they cannot reference new information. If possible, there should be a reference to the specific parts of the record that establish the facts, which usually would be written in parenthesis after each fact. For example, “The Appellee admitted to placing a GPS on the Appellant’s car (transcript p. 74, lines 23-24);”
- your arguments explaining why and how the trial court made each error your appeal is based on, supported by citations to relevant case law;
- a concluding request that the appellate court overturn (“vacate”) the trial court’s order.
- An appellee’s brief generally will require:
- a counter-statement of facts that would be necessary for the court to understand the appellee’s arguments as to why the trial court’s decision was correct. The facts must be supported by references to the record as shown above;
- the appellee’s arguments explaining how each of the appellant’s arguments is incorrect and why the trial court’s decision is correct, supported by citations to the relevant case law;
- a concluding request that the appellate court agree with (“affirm”) the trial court’s order.
- An appellant’s reply brief, if the appellant chooses to file one, will require:
- any additional facts necessary to address the appellee’s arguments;
- your arguments responding to the appellee’s arguments but without repeating arguments from your opening brief, if possible.
Some appellate courts’ websites provide sample appellate briefs, which can be very helpful if you are attempting to write a brief on your own. If you are attempting to find case law on your own, there is a public site called Google Scholar, which allows someone to do case law by searching for phrases that might come up in other cases. There may be state-specific resources as well, such as The People’s Law Library of Maryland. (WomensLaw is not affiliated with either of these websites and cannot vouch for the information you may find on them.)