From JP: How to write a Federal Appellate Brief

How to write an appellate brief for Federal Court

1) download and read all the rules for your jurisdiction.

2) you will receive from the Clerk of Court the “Record on Appeal” electronically, which consists of 2 sections: A first section containing all of the pleadings filed in date order with a pqge number at the bottom you will use to cite to in your brief and second section consisting of all transcripts, again, with a page number at the bottom. You can down load your record on appeal from the appellate court’s website.

3) First step is to make a Table of Contents for the Record on Appeal consisting of the title of the document and the page number. With this, you can write your Statement of Facts (see below).

4) COVER SHEET. Prepare your cover page with the appellate case number, the name of the court you are appealing from, the district court judge’s name, the Appellant’s and Appellee’s name, address, phone and email on the cover page.


Plaintiff – Appellant

GEORGE PETERSON, in his individual and official capacity
Defendant – Appellee

Appeal No. 17-XXXX

District Court Case No. 17-CVXXXX

District Court Judge
Hon. Jane Doe
Mag. Judge John Smith


Counsel for Defendants-Appellees
Atty John Peters
emailJane Smith, pro se, Plaintiff-Appellant
phone: 312 549-XXXX

(note this is in table form in the original. please click on this link to see proper format for the table of a Cover Sheet for a Fed. Brief


Do not omit any of these sections. Read the rules pertaining to each section thoroughly as you write. This is only an example from a brief.

A. Disclosure Statement under Fed R App P 26.1 and 28-a-1
All plaintiffs are pro se individuals and corporations so no disclosure of related
corporations is necessary

Table of Contents for Brief (again, this is in table form, look on link to see table form
Description Page
A. Disclosure Statement 2
B. Table of Contents for Brief 2
C. Table of Authorities 3
D. Jurisdictional Statement 5
E. Statement of Issues Presented for Review 5
F. Statement of the Case 5
a. Statement of Procedure – 5
b. The Motions filed by Plaintiff 13
c. Rulings and Decisions 16
G. Summary of Legal Argument 16
H. Detailed Legal Argument 18
a. Standard of Review is De Novo for all issues 18
b. Detailed Legal Argument 19
i. The Court erred when it did not Grant Plaintiff’s Motion A 19
ii. The Court erred when it dd not Grant Plaintiff’s Motion B 24
I. Conclusion and Relief Sought 30
J. Certificate of Compliance 32
K. Certificate regarding Required Short Appendix 34
C. Table of Authorities ( JP: How to write a Federal Appellate Brief)
Cases Page
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 US 562 (2009) 16
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) 17
Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. F.T.C., 710 F.2d 1165 (6th
Cir., 1983) 20
De’Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 633 (4th Cir. 2003) 22
18 USC § 242 21-22
42 USC § 1983 3, 6
28 USC § 1915A(b)(1) 22
28 USC § § 1331, 1367 3
42 USC § 1985 3
755 ILCS § 5/11a-10(f) 23
Scholarly Blogs 11 11 11 (NASGA) 11
Fed.R.App.P.28 (a) (4) 3
Fed. Cir.R. 28 (a) 3
Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a)(2) 17
Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12 (b)(6) 22
Government Reports
Government Accountability, 5 reports on Guardianship
Industry Surveys
Indictment of Professional Guardian April Parks 12

D. Jurisdictional Statement under Fed. R App P 28-a-4 and Cir.R. 28-a
On X date, Plaintiffs filed an eight Count Complaint against the following Defendants: X, Y and Z. Appendix page A.010. The federal district court had subject matter jurisdiction because the first claim was based upon a federal question of law, 42 USC § 1983 under 28 USC § § 1331, 1367 for Plaintiffs’ 42 USC § 1983 and 42 USC § 1985 claims. A.015, A.028, A.034.
On X date Judge Smith dismissed the Original Complaint A.010, but allowed Plaintiffs 30 days to amend. A.06. On Y date Plaintiffs timely filed an Amended Complaint. A.07. On Z date Judge Smith again dismissed the Amended Complaint and terminated the case. A.07. On P date Plaintiffs timely filed a Notice of Appeal. A.07. On Q date Plaintiffs also filed a Motion to Reconsider. A.08. On R date Judge Smith again denied Plaintiffs’ Motion to Reconsider and finally dismissed all defendants. A.08.
This Appeal is proper under Fed. Rules App. Pro. 3 and 4(a)-1-A.
This Jurisdictional Statement is full and accurate and complete. The Notice to Appeal was timely filed after a first final judgment for all defendants.

E. Statement of Issues Presented for Review
a. Whether the Trial Court erred when it failed to grant Plaintiff’s Motion X.
b. Whether the Trial Court Erred when it wrongfully granted Defendant’s Motion Y.
c. Whether the Trial Court erred when it did Z
F. Statement of the Case
a. Statement of Procedure – the court wrongfully did this.
Now, look at your Record on Appeal, and give a brief history of the case.

On X date, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against the following Defendants: X, Y and Z for (describe counts). A.15.

On Y date, Plaintiff filed this Motion which was (granted or denied) for the following reasons. A. 18 and A.33.

On Z date, Defendant X filed a Motion which was granted for the following resons. A.25 and A.62. Plaintiff filled a Response on P date on the following bases: X, Y, Z.

Etc., etc.

use sub headers as you see fit to organize your brief

c. Rulings and Decisions.

On Y date, the court issued this ruling or decision: tell what it was and why you oppose it. Cite to Record.

On z date, the curt issued this ruling or decision: tell what it was and why you oppose it. Cite to Record.

List every ruling you oppose and cite to the record what the court said and then where you opposed it at the District Court level and cite to what you said to oppose the ruling.

G. Summary of Argument

Give a brief summary of your argument on each point you want to appeal. This is an abstract, it is not the actual argument. Just one paragraph for each main point.

H. Detailed Legal Argument, including Standard of Review

a. Standard of Review for all issues is de novo.
With regard to motions to dismiss a Complaint for failure to state a claim, the stand or review is de novo.
We review de novo a district court’s dismissal for failure to state a claim pursuant to § 1915A. Slade v. Hampton Rds. Reg’l Jail, 407 F.3d 243, 248 (4th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted).

Note: unless there was a hearing or trial where the court made determinations of the credibility of witnesses, most cases can be review on the de novo standard which makes it easier for Plaintiffs to win on appeal. The Appellate court can just sit in the place of the trial court and review all decisions and orders.

If there was a trial, for that portion of your brief, the standard will be “abuse of discretion” which is a much higher standard for litigants to beat. The decision on those points will be review under the “abuse of discretion” standard.

b. Detailed Legal Argument
This is where you list your statues and cases and explain how they apply to your case in detail. Be sure to cite to the record and note all cases you used at the trial court level in your argument before them.

Tell the appellate court what errors were made and what relief do you want.
I.e. the District erred in its ruling on X date when it (describe the improper ruling) and Plaintiff Appellate is respectfully requesting that this Honorable Appellate Court Reverse and Remand to the District Court with appropriate instructions.
Do this for each major point in your brief.
Plaintiff Appellant, Pro Se
Prepared by:
Jane Doe, Plaintiff Appellant Pro se
phone email
Certificate of Compliance Rule 32-a-7
I hereby certify that this Opening Brief contains ___ pages excluding the Disclosure Statement, Tables of Contents and Authorities, this Certificate of Compliance, Verification and Certificate of Service and Verification.

The undersigned herewith certifies that this brief is true and accurate to the best of her knowledge and belief, and where statements are based upon information and belief, were believed to be true at the time the statements were made.

Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that I have served the following entities who have filed their appearance via email, on July X, 2018.
Atty Jack Smith, counsel for Defendant Y, via email at:

via email

Plaintiff Appellant, Pro Se

Notice of Filing
You are herewith notified that I have caused to be filed the foregoing Opening Brief of Appellants on this July X, 2018.
Plaintiff Appellant pro se
Table of Contents for Short AppendixDate Filer Description Page  (see  for proper table format)

Date, Title, Page
Docket Sheet 5
2/21/17 Complaint 10
2/21/17 Cover Sheet 43
2/21/17 MD IFP Petn 44
2/21/17 LD Motion for X 48
2/21/17 HD Motion for Y 52
2/21/17 LD Mot 2 appt atty 58
2/21/17 MD Mot for P 60
2/21/17 HD Mot for Q 62
3/3/17 CO Motions denied w/o prejudiceIFP 64
3/10/17 LD IFP Petn 68
3/10/17 MD IFP Petn 72
3/10/17 HD IFP Petn 76
4/18/17 CO Motns 2 file IFP denied w/o prejudice and dismisses Complaint w/o prejudice. Pltffs allowed 30 days to file Amended Complaint. Pltffs to seek assistance from Pro Se program 80
5/17/17 HD IFP Petn 84
5/17/17 MD IFPPetn 88
5/17/17 LD IFP Petn 92
5/17/17 Pltffs Amended Complaint 97
5/17/17 Pltffs Motn 4 court to appoint atty as lit rep for Mary Jane Teichert 129
6/21/17 CO Dismiss Amnded Complint; IFP’s deemed moot and motion to appt rep for Mary Jne Teichert. Case Terminated. All Motions by Pltffs denied. All motions for Defts granted. 133
7/21/17 LD Mot 2 reconsider 138
7/21/17 MD Mot 4 M 143
7/21/17 HD IFP Petn 147
7/21/17 Pltffs 2nd Amended Complaint 161
7/21/17 Pltffs Mot 2 Reconsider 151
7/21/17 Pltffs Brief in support of MTR 212
9/25/17 CO Mot 2 Recon denied.; Complaint dismissed, IFP denied 154
Abbreviations: LD-Jane Doe Plaintiff; HS–Harold Doe, Plaintiff; MD–Mark Doe; CO – Court Order;
Certificate of Compliance for Appendix

I hereby certify that I have prepared an Appendix for this Brief which is in compliance with Rule 30 and all materiaLD required by Cir. R. 30 are included in the appendix.

Plaintiff-Appellant, Pro Se

2 thoughts on “From JP: How to write a Federal Appellate Brief

  1. Is it not ‘mind-boggling’ what a Victim has to go through in order to refute a bad decision from the Court, especially after exhausting so much money on lawyers?. Who even has the time to do this type of work when (e.g. a single mother ‘raped’ in court because her husband out-moneyed and out-lawyer’d her) Life goes on and there’s work to do and children to raise! I’ve been writing a book for two years now….while caring and providing for my Autistic daughter who was similarly ‘raped’ by the NY Westchester County Probate system….I have no such time to be privately working on pro se matters, much less find the time to finish this book….The legal systems are set up for victims to fail and we are seeing the very real Guilty until proven Innocent playbook operating full steam in our Country…outrageous but true! Thank you Joanne for the continuing education we all receive via this site.

    • Just try to do what you can every day. We all have our own little parts in helping others out. I appreciate your writing a book and helping others. I can’t do everything and neither can you, but together we can become a great voice of truth and justice.

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