Less than a year ago, we blogged on a CLE presentation by Court of Appeals Judge Rich Dietz on typography in appellate briefs.  At the time, Judge Dietz urged appellate practitioners to abandon the use of Courier and Times New Roman fonts (the two fonts specifically endorsed by the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure) in favor of the Century font family (the font used by North Carolina’s appellate courts when they publish their opinions).… Continue Reading

In Chief Judge Gregory’s first published opinion since assuming his new role, the Fourth Circuit indicated yesterday that functional compliance with jurisdictional rules trumps formal compliance.  In Clark v. Cartledge, the Court addressed whether a pro se plaintiff’s filing of a request for an extension of time to request a certificate of appealability qualifies as the notice of appeal required by Rule 3 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure when a formal notice of appeal was not timely filed. … Continue Reading

This morning, my colleague Whit Pierce forwarded me a legal writing tip from Bryan A. Garner, a well known American lawyer and lexicographer who has authored a number of books on legal writing. Garner’s tip was that in writing a brief, you should avoid “depersonalization” of your opponent by referring to him/her/it/them with a legal label such as “plaintiff” or “appellant.”… Continue Reading

When you are waiting on an decision from the North Carolina Court of Appeals, if you are like me, you anxiously scour the new opinions every other Tuesday morning.  And on such occasions, the next best thing to seeing a favorable ruling in your case is coming across a favorable opinion in another case on the exact same issue that the Court will be addressing in your case. … Continue Reading

Judge Dietz shared an interesting brief-writing tip last night with The Chief Justice Joseph Branch Inn of Court. Go with a Century font over Times New Roman, and for any of you still clinging on to the Courier New days, it is time to move on.

Why Century? Two simple reasons—legibility and retention.

As stated by the Seventh Circuit in its Requirements and Suggestions for Typography in Briefs and Other Papers:

Typographic decisions should be made for a purpose.

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The September 2015 ABA Journal has an interesting article by Bryan Garner on headings in appellate briefs.  Garner makes a case for why the table of contents is one of the most important components of a brief.  He also provides guidelines for maximizing the impact of this required–but too often marginalized–component of legal writing.  Finally, Garner shares pointers on becoming “a propositional writer–one who figures out the main points before beginning to write,” declaring this skill to be the key to efficiency and quality.… Continue Reading

Who is the target audience of an appellate opinion?  Appellate counsel?  Other lawyers?  The public?

For appellate counsel, of course, the written opinion serves to explain the reasoning behind the disposition.  For other lawyers, the written opinion provides a roadmap of the law and the application of that law to a set of facts, which could help guide arguments that can be made in the future in analogous situations.… Continue Reading

One of the most useful resources for appellate lawyers just got even better.

The Appellate Style Manual, published by the state bar association’s Appellate Rules Committee, has for years been an indispensable source for tips and best practices before North Carolina’s appellate courts. The latest version includes updates to reflect changes in the appellate rules as well as sample motions, all in a more readable format than past editions.… Continue Reading

“Brevity is appreciated.”  “A short brief can be very effective.” How many times have you heard appellate judges make statements like this about appellate briefs?  While I can most certainly understand an appellate judge’s desire for shorter briefs, a soon-to-be-published article in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies examines whether more concise briefs are correlated with success on appeal.  The full paper is accessible here, but the abstract notes surprisingly that for civil appellants in the Ninth Circuit, “briefs of greater length are strongly correlated with success on appeal.… Continue Reading

Yesterday, the Maryland Appellate Blog featured remarks from the Fourth Circuit’s newest federal appellate judge, Pamela Harris, on the Fourth Circuit’s collaborative culture.  The remarks from Judge Harris are particularly insightful because she had a robust appellate practice before joining the Fourth Circuit.  Want to know more about how Judge Harris approaches briefs and oral arguments?  What appellate tactics “go over like a lead balloon” at the Fourth Circuit? … Continue Reading