If you are reading this blog, you probably have an interest in appeals in the Indiana Court of Appeals or Indiana Supreme Court. The life blood of an appeal is the “brief,” which is basically a story that tells the important facts, sets out the law, and why the litigant believes the trial court was (in)correct.
Obviously, the “argument” section of the brief pulls it all together. However, let’s face it. We live in a complex world. The best story (i.e., appeal) may fail because it set forth in an understandable way for the reader, the judges on higher courts or, sometimes, is incomprehensible. There are three sections of briefs that are not as often thought of that are key in addition to the argument.
The first is the statement of the case. Many cases have very lengthy backgrounds that if not understood, cannot set the argument in the right context for the reader. The statement of the case puts forth the nature of the case (i.e., divorce or contract dispute), the course of the proceedings (what litigation has occurred that led to the appeal), and what the result was. In many respects this is the who, what, when, where and why of any good and well told story.
However, ever matter, including a legal case, has almost unlimited facts that can be used to tell the story of how the case got to court. These facts have to be precise and draw the reader into the law that is relevant to affirming or reversing a trial court. Verbose, irrelevant, and confusing facts take away from the argument that is being made, the core of any brief.
Although it may seem obvious, the summary of the argument is quite important. This takes what may be many pages of facts and law that follow and synthesizes them to point out the legal issue for the Court. So while it may seem the argument is the end all of a brief, it is only as good as the component parts that support it. Thus, when you read an appellate brief or write one, it should read like footprints on a beach. One section should flow into the next and to the conclusion and relief sought.
This blog post is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handles appeals in the Indiana Court of Appeals, Supreme Court, Seventh Circuit, and United States Supreme Court. We hope you find it educational. It is not intended to be a solicitation for services or specific legal advice.