Appellate Insights

Sep 13, 2016 Alana H. Rotter
What Do You Want?

Every appellate brief urges the court to rule in the briefing party’s favor.  But far fewer briefs say exactly how the court should do so, and why.  That lack of specificity is a mistake.  A party’s job on appeal is to make it as easy as possible for the court to rule for it.  And that requires giving the court a detailed roadmap:

  • Tell the court exactly what legal rule or principle it should adopt, and why.  The rule should be workable in all cases involving the same general legal issue, not just yours.
  • Explain why you win under the rule you’ve articulated.
  • Describe exactly how the appellate court should dispose of the case:  Affirm in full; reverse in full; reverse as to a specific cause of action; reverse with directions for a trial on a specific issue, etc.
  • Write the Conclusion in a way that the court could copy directly into the opinion’s “Disposition” if it decided the case in your favor.

►  The practical message:  It is not enough to say that your client should win.  Specify what the win should look like, including the exact remedy the appellate court should grant to make it so.