With each appeal taken to the Indiana Court of Appeals (“Court”), the appellant (bringing the appeal) and appellee have the right to file a brief of about thirty pages with the Court. However, the appellant has the right to have the last say and file one last brief to the appellee’s brief. At a recent, appellate continuing education seminar, attorneys and practitioners had the ability to exchange ideas and tips for making “more appeal” to an appeal. This blog covers three unique points’ that practitioners and/or judges discussed during this event and dinner.
Distillation of the key points. Because original briefs often cover multiple issues and factual issues it may be approximately 30 pages long, a reply brief which is limited to a very short length—and by nature—has to address the most important facts, issues or material.1 Thus, every word counts and many appellate attorneys spend considerable time getting the reply brief precisely right and to the exact word count limit. Remember the power of the written or spoken word—shorter is harder, as Woodrow Wilson said, “If I am to speak for ten minutes, I need a week to prepare; if an hour, I am ready now.” Words matter, particularly final words.
Reading backward. Interestingly, because of the massive amount of electronic data associated with appeals, such as the typed word-for-word record of what witness testified to at trial, exhibits, the appendix (certain motions, papers, and orders) and the brief, some appellate judges read the briefs in reverse order, starting with a reply brief to get a succulent view of what the true legal issues are on appeal. This alone, particularly in legally unique or factually complex cases, likely justifies a reply brief.
Burden of proof. For the appellant or both appellant and appellee where there are cross- appeals, they or it (such as with an entity) has a burden of proof on appeal, as appellate courts defer to trial courts who observed real litigants and can best judge credibility. On appeal, the Court has a cold paper record. For this reason, a reply brief gives the appealing party one more chance to meet his or her burden of proof and get a reversal or other relief from the trial court’s decision by helping establish the appellate burden of proof.
This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle appeals of all types to the Indiana Court of Appeals, Indiana Supreme Court, Seventh Circuit, and/or United States Supreme Court. This blog post is written for general educational purposes. It is not a solicitation for services or specific legal advice. It is an advertisement.
- 7,000 words or 15 pages. Indiana Rule of Appellate Procedure 44.