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How to Style Your Appeal, Part 2

Appeals are very technical. Last time, we covered the technicalities in a Record on Appeal. Now we address the appellate brief. The Brief is where the case is won or lost. It contains the arguments of counsel on why the appellate court should overturn the court below. As one can imagine, an argument is made in writing is very different from arguments made orally. Over time, the appellate courts have adopted uniform rules on how to present an argument in a brief, which makes things more efficient and consistent.

Fonts and word counts may seem trivial, but given how important the written argument is, confusion about a word because of typeface is inefficient. The scope of any review on appeal is limited to issues that are presented in the several briefs. A few fonts are allowed under Rule 26 of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure, but most common is 12-point Century. Rule 28(j) outlines the various word counts for the various briefs; 8,750 for a principle brief and 3,750 for reply briefs. A quick note on deadlines: pursuant to Rule 13, the appellant’s brief in civil cases is required to be filed and served within 30 days of the date the Record on Appeal is filed with the appellate court.

Content of a brief. The appellant’s brief must contain a cover page, index, and a statement of the issues that are presented for review (with inside caption). Note that the proposed issues that were a part of the Record on Appeal are not binding on the issues that are discussed in the brief. The Issues Presented should be single-spaced and typically be in ALL CAPS. All pages of the brief should be numbered at the top, flanked by dashes (- 1 -).

The index shall contain a table of cases and authorities that are cited in the brief. The index in the brief, like the other indexes in the Record and Documentary Exhibits, require 1.75-inch margins on either side. The cases are arranged alphabetically, followed by constitutional provisions and statutes arranged numerically, then regulations and other authorities (such as treatises or books/articles).

The brief must also contain a concise procedural history of the case (aka a Statement of the Case), and a statement of the grounds for appellate review—this is most often found within a statute granting a right to appeal, or an appeal from final judgment. Interlocutory appeals require facts to show that a substantial right is at stake[1].

Next, the facts of the case must be laid out so that the Court can understand the argument. The facts require citations to the record, transcript, and/or exhibits. Note that the way to write a date in appellate documents is day – month – year (e.g., 25 December 2019). Long quotations from the transcript or the record are discouraged and may cause issues with word count. The citation for a page in the record or transcript is not “p.” but rather “p” or “pp” for multiple pages, for example, the record can be cited as (R p 12).

Getting the small technical details right is by itself a proofreading of the entire document. It also gains favor with the Judges and Clerks that are reading the brief. This is only the first section of my blog on the Brief. The next section will cover the argument and appendix.

[1] “An appeal is interlocutory when noticed from an order entered during the pendency of an action, which does not dispose of the entire case and where the trial court must take further action in order to finally determine the rights of all parties involved in the controversy.” Beroth Oil Co. v. N.C. Dep’t of Transp., 256 N.C. App. 401, 410, 808 S.E.2d 488, 496 (2017).