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Briefs,LegalMemorandaandLegalWriting

Terms:

Youhavelearnedinpreviouschaptersthatpartofthelegalprofession
involvesalargequantityofwriting.Complaints,answers,discovery
documents,motionsandlegalmemoranda(sometimescalledbriefs)
makeupalargepartofacourtfile.

Legalese

Therewasatimewhensimplelegalwritingwasfrownedupon.Attorneys
tookgreatpainstomakelanguageindocumentsascomplicatedas
possible.Oneofthereasonslegalwritingwassocomplicatedwasbecause
attorneyswantedtocovertheirbasesandmakesurethattheirdocuments
wereascompleteaspossible.Aslegalwritinghasevolved,therehasbeen
amovementtomoveawayfromconvolutedlegalwriting,alsoknownas
legalesetomorecontemporary,orplainwriting.Forexample:

Initsmemorandumtothecourtinsupportofitsmotionforsummary
judgment,Hal,theplaintiffsattorney,arguedthatthepartyofthefirst
partcovetedtoconveyitsentireinterestinthesubjectrealpropertytothe
partyofthesecondpart.Thecourt,unhappywiththelanguage,instructs
Haltorewritehismemorandum,excludinganylegalese.Inhisrevised
memorandum,Halwrites,Theselleragreestoconveyitsentireinterestin
thepropertytothebuyer.Thelanguageisclearer,fewerwordsareused
(thusgeneratinglesspaper),butthemessageisstillthesame.

Wordslikeheretofore,hereinafter,hereinbefore,aforementioned,
etc.,shouldbeavoidedwheneverpossible.

TheBrieforCaseSummary

Legalmemorandaaresometimescalledbriefs.Thewordbrief,
however,hasanothermeaningitreferstoashortsynopsisofacase.
Insteadofreadinga25pagecase,forexample,manyattorneyswillask
theirclerks(ortheirassociates)tosummarizeacaseortobriefthe
case.Thebriefwillgivetheattorneytheinformationheorsherequires,to
decidewhetherthecaseisrelevantandworthspendingthetimetoreadin
depth.

Abrief,inthiscontext,isaformoftakingnotesandincludesavarietyof
sections.Whenwritingacasebrief,beginwiththenameandcitationofthe
case.Thefirstsectionofthecasebriefusuallycontainsadescriptionofthe
factsofthecase.Thesecondsectionwillcontainabriefdescriptionofthe
proceduralhistoryofthecase,thatis,ashortdescriptionofwhat
happenedatthetriallevelandattheappellatelevel,orwhattypesof
motionswerefiledandwhen.Thethirdsectionusuallycontainsashort
statementofthemainissueorissuesthatthecaseaddresses.Thefourth
sectionusuallycontainsthe holding ofthecase,i.e.,theultimate
outcome.Thelastsectioncontainsadiscussionofthecourtsanalysis.The
nameofthejudgeorotherinformationmaybeincludedinamiscellaneous
section.Additionally,any concurrences or dissents shouldreceivesome
discussion.

Briefsshouldnotbelongerthanonetotwopageslongandshouldbeeasy
toreadsothatthereaderdoesnothavetospendmuchtime
understandingthereasoningofthecase.

TheLegalMemorandum

Youhavealreadylearned,inpreviouschapters,abouttheuseoflegal
memoranda.Torecap,legalmemorandaareusedinconnectionwith
motions,bothpretrialandposttrial.Occasionally,duringtrial,thecourt
mayaskforamemorandumonaparticularlegalissue.

Thecourtroom,however,isnottheonlyarenainwhichlegalmemoranda
canbeinvolved.Attorneyswilloftenaskclerks(orassociates)topreparea
legalmemorandumaboutaparticularlegalissue.Thismemorandumis
usedwithinthelawfirmandservestoinformtheattorneyaboutthelegal
issue,andincludescitationstolegalauthorities.Itwillalsopointoutasplit
ofauthoritiesorambiguitiesinthelaw,ifapplicable.Itisimportantthat
theattorneytowhomthememoisaddressedisinformedofallaspects
thatarerelevanttotheissue,notjustinformationthatisfavorabletoyour
sideofthecase.

TheCourtroomLegalMemorandum:

Thisparticularmemorandumisapersuasivedocument.Thememorandum
mustincludealegalargumentandshouldcontainlegalcitationsthat
supportthelegalargumentsbeingputforwardinthememorandum.
However,itshouldbenotedthatattorneyshaveanethicaldutytodisclose
anyandallbindinglegalauthoritythatiscontrarytotheirpositionintheir
documents.Ofcourse,itwilloftenbethetaskofthedrafterofthe
memorandumtotrytoconvincethecourtthatthecontrarycaseshouldnot
beappliedtothefactsofthiscase.

Thetopofthefirstpageofamemorandumbeingsubmittedtothecourt
shouldhavethepropercaptionasrequiredbythelocalrulesofthecourt,
followedbythepropertitleofthememorandum.

Itisalwaysagoodideatostartthememowithanintroductoryparagraph
sothatthecourtisinstantlyattunedtowhatissuethememorandum
addresses.Similarly,itisalwaysagoodideatoincludeabriefstatementof
thefactsofthecase.Thereasonwhyastatementofthefactsisessential
thefactsofthecase.Thereasonwhyastatementofthefactsisessential
isbecausethejudgewhoisfamiliarwithyourcasemaynotbetheperson
readingthememoandwritingtheresultingdecision.Alwaysassumethat
thereaderislearningaboutthecaseforthefirsttime.Thestatementof
thefactsshouldnotbeconvoluteditshouldofferaclear,concise
descriptionofthecircumstancesgivingrisetoandsurroundingthecase.
Withinthestatementofthefactsshouldbeafewsentencesconcerningthe
proceduralhistoryofthecase.Forexample:

Julierepresentstheplaintiffinamotorvehicleaccident.Insupportofher
motionforsummaryjudgment,Julieincludesinhermemorandumthe
following:OntheeveningofJanuary3,1992,theplaintiffwastravelingin
herautomobileinawesterlydirectiononMainStreetinthecityof
Myertown,whenhercarwassuddenlyandviolentlystruckbythe
defendantsautomobile,whichwasbeingoperatedbythedefendant.Asa
result,theplaintiffsustainedseriousphysicalinjuriesforwhichshehas
broughtthisactiontorecoverdamages.Itistheplaintiffscontentionthat
thedefendantnegligentlyfailedtostopatthestopsignasrequiredbylaw.
Theplaintiffhasrespectfullymovedthiscourtforsummaryjudgmenton
thegroundthatthereisnogenuineissueofmaterialfactandthatthe
plaintiffisentitledtojudgmentasamatteroflaw.

Tofocusthereadersattention,thememoshouldalwaysincludea
statementoftheissueaddressed.Forexample:

Followingherstatementofthefacts,Julieincludesthefollowingissue:
Thismemorandumaddressestheissueofwhetheranoperatorofamotor
vehiclewhofailstostopforapedestrianinacrosswalkisinherentlyliable
fornegligence.

Thelongest,andmostimportant,partofthememoisthe discussion
section.Thisisthesectioninwhichthepartysargumentismaintained,
legalauthorityiscited,andconclusionsoflawaredrawn.

Finally,thelastsectioninthememoisthe conclusion ,whichsummarizes


theargumentscontainedwithinthememo.

Anothertypeoflegalmemorandumisthe appellatebrief .Appellatebriefs


willbediscussedinthelastchapter,whichconcernsappellatepractice.

TheInternalLegalMemorandum

Thefirstpartoftheinternallegalmemoistheheading,whichusuallylooks
likethis:

DEWEY,CHEATUM&HOWE,LLP
MEMORANDUM

TO:[nameofrecipient]
FROM:[nameofauthor]
DATE:[date]
RE:[subjectofmemo]

Withintheheading,thetwomostimportantpartsarethedateandthe
subject,or"re:"(pronouncedrayorree)line.Thedateisimportant
becauseitletsthereader,whomaynotbetheoriginalrecipient,know
whenthememorandumwaswritten.Itisassumedthatallofthelawcited
withinthememoiscurrentasofthatdate.The"re:"lineisimportant
becauseitinstantlyfocusesthereadersattention.Often,internal
memorandaarekeptinresearchfilesforfuturereferenceandthus,the
"re:"lineoffersaquickguidetothememoscontents.

Thememoshouldbeginwithastatementoftheissue,whichisthelegal
questionthatthememorandumaddresses.Forexample:

Theissueaddressedbythememoiswhethertheoperatorofamotor
vehicleisinherentlyliablefornegligenceforstrikingapedestrianina
crosswalk. OR

Thismemoaddressestheissueofwhetheracorporationthatdistributes
sharesinitsorganizationmustregisterwiththeUnitedStatesSecurities
andExchangeCommission.

Thenextparagraph,orseriesofparagraphs,shouldofferabriefanswerto
theissue.Thepurposeofthisbriefanswerissothatthereaderdoesnot
havetoreadtheentirememorandumtounderstandtheresolutionofthe
issue.Citationtoauthorityisnotabsolutelynecessaryinthissection,butit
maybeincludedifdeemedappropriate.

Itisnotessentialtoincludeabriefstatementofthefactsgivingrisetothe
issue,butitisrarelyabadideatodoso.Ifthememospecificallydiscusses
thepertinentlawandthenappliesittothefactsgivingrisetotheissue,it
mustalsodiscussthefacts,orthememowillnotbeaseffective.Ifthe
memoisastrictdiscussionoflaw,thefactsmaynotbeimportantthey
willalwaysprovide,however,aframeofreference.Becausetheresolution
ofalegalissuecanturnononeseeminglyminutefact,theinclusionof
factsisoftenuseful.

Thelargestportionofthememoisthediscussionsection.Itisinthis
sectionthatalllegalanalysisoccurs,aswellasanyapplicationofthelaw
tothefactsgivingrisetotheissue.Asexplainedabove,allattorneyshave
anethicaldutytoinformthecourtofauthoritycontrarytotheirposition
therefore,itisessentialthattheinternallegalmemorandumdiscussall
aspectsofanissue,includingcontradictoryauthority.

Finally,thelastsectionofthememorandumisthe conclusion ,inwhicha


briefsummaryofthememorandumisoffered.

Orderofcitationofauthorities
Quiteoften,attorneysandotherlegalpractitionerswillwishtocitemore
thanonejudicialdecision,statute,orotherlegalsourcetosupporttheir
argument.Alistoftwoormorecitationsiscalleda stringcitation .One
maynotsimplycitewithabandoneverysourcethatsupportsanargument
authoritiesmustbecitedinaparticularorderinastringcitation.Ifone
authorityismoreimportantorauthoritativethantherest,itshouldbe
citedatthebeginningofthestringcitation.

Generally,federalstatutesshouldbecitedbeforestatestatutes.For
statutes,thoseenactedmostrecentlyshouldbecitedfirst,andthenthe
restshouldfollowinreversechronologicalorder.

Casesshouldbecitedinsimilarfashionfederalcasesshouldprecede
statecases.TheUnitedStatesSupremeCourtshouldbecitedbeforeany
otherfederalcourt,followedbycourtsofappealsandthendistrictcourts.
Ifmorethanonecaseiscitedfromthesamecourt,thecasesshouldbe
listedinreversechronologicalorder(i.e.,mostrecentfirst).Decisionsfrom
courtsofappealsneednotbeorganizedbycircuit,howevertheyare
treatedasiftheyarethesamecourt,tobeorderedinreverse
chronologicalorder.Decisionsfromthedistrictcourtsaretreatedinthe
sameway.Forexample:

Inhermemoranduminsupportofhermotiontodismiss,Rebeccahas
manydecisionstociteinsupportofherposition.Afterreviewingacitation
guidetodeterminehowtociteallofthedecisions,shedecidestoinclude
thefollowingstringcitation:Statev.Jones,23U.S.235,31S.Ct.3256,32
L.Ed.236(1902)Peoplev.Smith,932F.2d281(2dCir.1986)Statev.
Miranda,915F.2d248(3dCir.1982)Peoplev.Stuart,822F.2d432(2d
Cir.1970)Statev.Andrews,234F.Supp.343(S.D.N.Y.1953).Her
citationisproper.

NotethatthetwocasesfromtheSecondCircuitarenotlistedtogether,but
arelisted,withtheThirdCircuitsdecision,inreversechronologicalorder.

Citationofmorethanonestatecourtdecisionissimilaralwaysbeginwith
thehigheststatecourt,thentheappellatelevel,and,finally,thetrialcourt
level.Thedecisionsfromeachlevelshouldbelistedinreversechorological
order.Ifthestringcitationcontainsdecisionsfrommorethanonestate,the
citationsshouldbelistedalphabetically,bystate.Wthineachstate's
decisions,thepreviouslydiscussedrulesregardingcourtrankingsand
reversechronologicalorderapply.

20032017NationalParalegalCollege/NationalJurisUniversity
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