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How to Style Your Appeal, Part I

Appeals are very technical. A filing with the Court of Appeals can happen after a final judgment, or as an interlocutory appeal—meaning before the final judgment. But in order for the Court of Appeals to properly hear your case, you have to provide them with all the facts. The Court of Appeals is not a fact-finding court; you are bound by the facts that were presented in the trial level, and further bound by the facts that you present to the Court. Those facts are included in the “Record on Appeal.”

The Record on Appeal begins with a cover page. The case number must be printed in the top left corner and left blank so that the clerk’s office can assign a number when the record is filed. The judicial district must also be listed on the top right corner. To the right of the parties’ names should appear the county from which the case comes and the indictment or docket numbers of the case below. Margins for the non-index pages in the record on appeal are 1-inch all around. The indexes are indented 0.75 inches from both sides of the 1-inch margin. The order for the documents to be included in the Record on Appeal can be found in Appendix C of the Rules of Appellate Procedure. It generally includes items that are “necessary for an understanding of all issues presented on appeal,” (N.C. R. App. P. 9(a)(1)), and “should be arranged, so far as practicable, in the order in which they occurred or were filed in the trial tribunal,” N.C. R. App. P. 9(b)(1).

After the cover page and index, there ought to be a Statement of Organization of Trial Court. This is the first numbered page in the Record on Appeal. The numbering is at the top of the page, and each number is flanked by dashes (- 1 -). The Statement of Organization will list which verdict, Order, or Judgment the appellant is appealing. The next item is the Statement of Jurisdiction. In a civil case, it identifies the filing and issuance of a summons. Most cases will have a statement showing the parties acknowledge personal and subject matter jurisdiction. In some cases, the return of service can be included to identify jurisdiction. The documents and items necessary for an understanding of all issues presented on appeal, in the index, should follow. Rule 9(b)(3) of the Rules of Appellate Procedure requires that all papers to show the date on which they were filed. Often the Clerk’s time stamp is illegible, so it is permissible to write the file date as long as the file date is not in dispute.

After the indexed documents, a statement regarding the use of transcripts can be included. This includes setting forth use of verbatim transcripts pursuant to Rule 9(c)(2). Next, if a Rule 11(c) supplement is included, a Statement of 11(c) Supplement is included to identify the supplement, how it is referenced “(R S p _____).”, and the page numbers. If either party objects to inclusion of a particular document in the record, and the parties cannot agree on its inclusion, then that document should be part of the Rule 11(c) Supplement.

Proposed Issues on Appeal present the issues that will be before the Court of Appeals. Most often, they will be stated as questions beginning with “Did the trial court err…” These proposed issues are not binding on the appeal but give notice of the general issues, so they should identify the fact findings and/or legal conclusion that was in error. The Rule 9(d) Documentary Exhibits identify the Exhibits the trial court reviewed. The Rule 9(d) Documentary Exhibits must be consecutively paginated and should be indexed if more than one. The pagination can be (- Doc. Ex. 1 -). Identification of Counsel for Appeal identifies the name, address, and email of all appellate counsel.

The rules for appellate style are very technical. But given the immense number of documents that must be reviewed by the Appellate Court, it makes sense that it all must be meticulously formatted and identified so that the Court may digest and understand the issues at stake. The Record contains all the facts the Court can reference when deciding the case. This is part I of what makes a successful appeal: technically proficient records. Part II will discuss the style of the appellate brief.