How to Brief a Case: Tutorial

This is one of the most important individual elements of the case "brief," because it defines precisely WHAT legal errors each respective party is asking the appellate court to correct. Most judicial opinions will at least respond in some way to these asserted errors (even if the court doesn't agree with the party's assertions). In fact, in most cases the entire opinion is written in an attempt to resolve the issue(s) presented by one or both of the parties' contentions on appeal. Thus, this portion of the case "brief" is often very insightful in helping the student to formulate a precise statement of the issue(s).


Since the Appellant is the primary "complaining" party on an appeal, it is up to the Appellant to IDENTIFY some specific legal error in the earlier case proceedings in the lower court(s) which require the action which is being requested from the appellate court. This section of the brief is designed to help the student focus more specifically upon the legal reason(s) for why the appeal is being brought in the first place. Typically, the Appellant's contention(s) will articulate some legal error relating either to some aspect of the substantive law applicable to the case (e.g., Torts, Contracts, etc.), OR some procedural error. Only rarely does the Appellant's contention relate solely to a factual issue.


Typically, the Appellee's contention is merely a denial of the legal argument(s) asserted by the Appellant. However, sometimes the Appellee will raise an entirely different question for the appellate court. Since the appellate court will usually (although not always) respond in some manner to each of the allegations presented to it, each party in an appeal has the opportunity to focus the direction of the appellate court's analysis in resolving the legal controversy presented by the appeal. By carefully analyzing EACH of the parties' contentions on the appeal, the student will most probably be able to identify at least some (if not all) of the issues addressed by the court in its appellate decision.

Contentions of the Parties

Edward C. Martin

To view descriptions of each element of a case "brief,"  CLICK on the appropriate link below.


Type of Action


Procedural History

Contentions of Parties