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Friday, July 22, 2011

The Importance of Spell-Checking Your Brief

By Kirsten E. Small

The interwebs have been abuzz this week with gleeful snarking about Sanches v. Carollton-Farmers Branch I.S.D., particularly the Fifth Circuit's dressing down of Sanches' attorney for "grammatical errors ... so egregious and obvious that an average fourth grader would have avoided most of them." Ouch.

Of course, checking your brief for spelling and grammatical errors is important, and not just so you can avoid having a federal court of appeals tell that you are approximately as literate as a 9-year-old. Much like having a run in your stockings (I hear nylons are making a comeback) or a stain on your tie, careless errors in your brief distract from the quality of your argument. Why slave for hours to craft a brilliant argument if the court is going to be too busy snickering over your failure to master subject-verb agreement to notice?

As if that's not enough, careless briefing can cost you money (I knew that would get your attention).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Is that a Statement of Facts, or a "Fact Dump"?

by Kirsten E. Small

A friend of mine practices Social Security disability, and hence files quite a few appellate briefs in the U.S. District Court. A while back, Leeds came up with the heretical idea of completely omitting the statement of facts from his brief. Instead, all discussion of the facts occurs in the context of the argument as to each asserted error in the ALJ's decision.

Heretical, maybe--but effective. One of our magistrate judges recently had this to say about a brief prepared in this style: