Appellate Insights

Sep 12, 2017 Alana H. Rotter
Heads Up

Descriptive headings make briefs more clear, and result in a table of contents that provides a helpful roadmap of your position.  But on-point headings are more than just good practice—they are required, and failing to use them comes at a high cost:

  • Each point in a brief must be “under a separate heading or subheading summarizing the point . . . .”  (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.204(a)(1).)
  • Appellate courts sometimes refuse to consider arguments that are not identified under a relevant heading, finding such arguments forfeited or waived.
  • Even if the court does not deem an argument forfeited, the absence of descriptive headings makes the statement of facts and the arguments harder to follow, increasing the risk that key points will get lost in the shuffle.

►  The practical message:  When finalizing a brief—and even during the drafting process—check that your headings match your narrative and arguments, and that the table of contents reflects each main point in logical sequence.