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Report No. 99

Appellate Briefs in U.S.A.

Filing of appeals in U.S.A.

The "Brief" is an exceedingly important document in the United States in the appeal process. It contains the legal arguments upon which a party based his contention that the lower court's decision should either be reversed or upheld. Some appeals are decided on the basis of the contents of the brief, since oral arguments may be dispensed with, either at the request of the parties or by, the Court on its own motion. The panel assigned to decide a case on appeal may consist of three, five, seven or nine judges, depending upon the court and the case. In the federal court of appeals, panels of three are common. In unusual situations, a court may sit en banc which means that a panel consisting of all the judges of that court will hear the case.1

Multiple copies of the brief are required to be filed with the clerk of courts, so that each judge will receive his own copy. The brief contains each attorney's statement of the questions to be decided by the court on review, the action he wishes the court to take, and-most importantly-the reasons to support his position. That rationale generally includes reference to authoritative sources, such as the precedent of prior court decisions, statutes, and legal treatises. Therefore, in the attorney's legal research, finding relevant authoritative support for his position is vital.2

Copies of the appellant's brief must be served on the appellee, who is given thirty days in which to prepare and file copies of his own brief with the clerk of the court of appeals. An appellant has the option of filling another brief in reply to that of the appellee. Failure of either party to file a brief can be disastrous to his cause. If the appellant fails to file within the time provided, the appellee may move for dismissal of the appeal. If the appellee fails to file his brief, he cannot take part in the oral argument before the court except by special permission.

1. Kolasa and Meyer Legal System, (1978), p. 207.

2. Kolasa and Meyer Legal System, (1978), p. 207.

Oral and Written Arguments in the Higher Courts Back

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