Miscellaneous links
The elephant in the room

Issue statements in the real world

How do practicing lawyers write issue statements in appellate briefs? Professor Judith Fischer set out to answer that question by analyzing samples of 50 sets of briefs from each of six states. The results are in her new article, Got Issues? An Empirical Study About Framing Them, available on SSRN. Though she does not concludes that any one format is mor effective than another, she does draw from her study some hints for writing more effective issue statements:

  • Restrict the number of issue statements to a manageable few. Her article cites Judge Aldisert’s advice to raise no more than three issues in a brief.
  • If the issue statement appears before the statement of facts, then refer to parties by their roles rather than their names, e.g. “the employee,” “the injured person,” “the taxpayer,” “the ship,” “the stevedore.” Fed. R. App. P. 28(e). But if the issue statement appears after the statement of facts, you can use the parties’ names.
  • Unless the issue is a purely legal question, incorporate some legally relevant facts.
  • Make the issue statement subtly persuasive but not overtly argumentative.
  • Ask a question that commands a “yes” or “no” answer.
  • If court rules conflict with these hints, follow the court rules.


Lonn Weissblum

Ray, I enjoyed reading this post. I am an appellate attorney in Boca Raton, Florida and certainly believe that the framing of the issues is a critical, and often neglected, skill in authoring an appellate brief. The proper framing of an issue can really go long way in getting your point across to the appellate court.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)