Writing Appellate Briefs
Thoughts of a Rookie Appellate Judge
Writing an appellate brief is both science and art. Technical rules
dictate what a brief must include and in what order, length and other
requirements. The art of brief writing makes text sing in a way that is helpful
to the reader, a pleasure to read and persuasive advocacy.
I’m a rookie, having served on Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals
for a little more than a year. During that time, I have read perhaps a thousand
briefs in hundreds of cases. I have seen good and bad, pretty and ugly, lean
and clunky, persuasive and, well, not-so-persuasive. I am quick to admit that
every case is unique, every judge is different and every suggestion has excep-
tions. I recognize that what doesn’t work 99 times may work perfectly the 100th
time (and vice versa) and that every thought about writing is a generalization.
With these substantial caveats, using the general technical requirements for
briefs in Arizona Rule of Civil Appellate Procedure 13, this article shares some
thoughts from a rookie appellate judge on the art of writing appellate briefs.
BY SAMUEL A. THUMMA
Focus on Appellate Law