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Common Mistakes Seen in Appellate Petitions and Briefs, by Chad M. Ruback, Appellate Lawyer


Mr. Ruback served as a briefing attorney to the Fort Worth Court of Appeals. Here he shares the common mistakes that are normally seen in appellate writing. Because an appellate court never questions witnesses or hears evidence, the written documents submitted by the parties are all it has upon which to base its ruling. Sloppy and lengthy garbled arguments simply will not do. Mr. Ruback’s comments are worth noting.

I would like to add to Mr. Ruback’s list – neglecting to verify the accuracy of the appellate record while it remains in the jurisdiction of the trial court. It is a simple exercise to compare the record compiled by the trial court clerk using the Designation of Record and Counter-Designation of Record to make sure that the record is accurate.

This may seem a waste of time until the appellate record includes a deposition that was never admitted into evidence or a crucial piece of evidence is overlooked by the court clerk who assembled record for the appeal. No one is perfect; mistakes can happen.

Too often, counsel ignore this simple step. Personally, I would make sure the person you send to check the record put the trial exhibits together and/or was part of the trial team. Or to put it another way – how do you explain to a client that you couldl have avoided the appeal’s fatal flaw if you had checked the record before it was sent up on appeal? -CCE