Writing a brief without cheating?
May 26, 2011 3:13 PM   Subscribe

I am not (exactly) a lawyer. I need to write an appellate brief. Where can I find a hypothetical that doesn't come with answers?

I'm technically a lawyer, in that I passed the bar ages ago, but I went into librarianship, and haven't done any legal writing since my first-year appellate brief. Now I want to move over to teaching legal research and writing, but I need to have a writing sample, and my sixteen-year-old brief is long gone. I'd rather write a new one anyway, since my research and writing skills have grown significantly since first year.

I need to find an appellate brief hypo that doesn't contain the answers in it. I know I can buy or find problems that are intended to be assigned to first years, but they come with answers, and it seems like that would be cheating. Is there anywhere I can find a problem that will include the trial record, but that won't give me the answers?

(Related but not quite what I'm looking for.)
posted by cereselle to Work & Money (7 answers total)
Why not pick an interesting case due to be decided by the Supreme Court, read the trial/appellate decisions, and then write a brief for one side on the questions for which cert was granted?
posted by shivohum at 3:23 PM on May 26, 2011

I don't know how useful this is, but you could try Googling around for cases that settled before they went to appeal. For instance, law firms will often proudly list this information on their websites. Whether you can find the record, or an interesting issue to appeal, is another matter.
posted by John Cohen at 3:52 PM on May 26, 2011

Sign up for a PACER account and find an interesting case, and then download the record. This may require some legwork to filter out the really bogus appeals.

If you have an active license, you might try talking to some pro bono type places. There might be some prisoner habeas cases you could do for real, but that might not be your cup of tea.

Also, fwiw, on the first read-through, it sounds like you're saying that you haven't written a brief for 16 years, yet you want to teach legal writing. You may wish to be more careful regarding how you frame issues...
posted by QuantumMeruit at 4:00 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is there anywhere I can find a problem that will include the trial record, but that won't give me the answers?

Sure. Take your pick of moot court competitions. Here's the 2011 Giles Rich Moot Court problem, for example, which is a patent case.
posted by jedicus at 4:58 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Talk to a law school about contacting a legal writing professor. Write an appellate brief based on past assignment they've given out.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:04 PM on May 26, 2011

I agree, look for a case that has been appealed and accepted up the appellate chain, but hasn't yet been adjudicated. Read the ruling of the lower court, and write a brief that you would write if you were working for one side or the other.
posted by gjc at 6:27 AM on May 27, 2011

Real live appellate lawyer here. I think the moot court competitions or downloading a real Pacer file are good ideas. If you want to separate substantive cases from the dogs you might want to go watch oral argument for a day and pick a case from those you see or pick a case that was reviewed en banc.

This is the best book on appellate briefs I've ever seen and I thought it might be a good resource for you.
posted by bananafish at 11:30 AM on May 27, 2011

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