The term “brief” originated from the Latin word “brevis,” which means “short.” Legal briefs are called briefs because they are more concise than other legal documents, like pleadings or legal memoranda. Generally speaking, they are meant to provide a summary of the legal issues and arguments involved in a proceeding, rather than a detailed analysis of every aspect of a case.
Federal District Court Briefs:
Federal District Courts are trial courts that handle civil and criminal cases. Briefs at the Federal District Court level include:
- Complaint: This is the initial document filed by the plaintiff in a civil case, outlining the legal claims and facts that form the basis of a lawsuit.
- Answer: This is the initial response filed by the defendant in a civil case, outlining any defenses to the plaintiff’s claims.
- Motion to dismiss: This is a request by the defendant to have the case dismissed before it goes to trial. The motion may be based on issues such as lack of jurisdiction, failure to state a claim, or improper venue.
- Motion for summary judgment: This is a request by a party to have the case decided in their favor without going to trial, based on the argument that there are no genuine disputes of material fact and that the law is on their side.
- Memorandum of law: This document presents legal argument and cites to relevant case law in support of a party’s position. Memoranda of law may be filed in connection with a motion or as part of the trial briefs.
- Trial briefs: These are the main briefs filed by the parties in a case, outlining the legal issues and arguments that will be presented at trial.
Circuit Court of Appeals Briefs:
There are several types of briefs that may be filed in a Federal Circuit Court of Appeals—that is, on appeal from a Federal District Court. These include:
- Appellant’s opening brief: This brief is filed by the party appealing a lower court’s decision and outlines the legal issues and arguments in favor of overturning the lower court’s ruling.
- Appellee’s brief: This brief is filed by the party opposing the appeal and presents arguments in favor of upholding the lower court’s decision.
- Reply brief: This brief is filed by the appellant in response to the appellee’s brief. It may address any new arguments or issues raised by the appellee.
- Amicus briefs: Amicus briefs may be filed by individuals or organizations that are not directly involved in a case but have an interest in the outcome. These briefs often provide the Court with information about technical or scientific aspects of the case.
- Supplemental briefs: These briefs may be filed by either party in response to new developments or issues that arise after initial briefs have been filed.
- Petitions for rehearing: These briefs may be filed after a decision has been issued by the appellate court, requesting that the court reconsider its decision.
U.S. Supreme Court Briefs:
Common United States Supreme Court filings include:
- Petitions for writ of certiorari: This is a request to the Supreme Court to review a case that has already been decided by a lower court (State or Federal).
- Briefs in opposition: These briefs are filed by the respondents in a case, and they present arguments in opposition to the petitioner’s case.
- Jurisdictional briefs: These briefs outline the legal issues and arguments involved in a case and are used to determine whether the Supreme Court has the authority to hear a case or controversy.
- Amicus briefs: Also known as “friend of the court” briefs, these are filed by individuals or organizations that are not directly involved in a case but have an interest in the outcome of the litigation. Amicus briefs often provide the Court with additional information or perspective on the case.
- Reply briefs: These briefs are filed in response to the arguments made in the brief in opposition.
- Merits briefs: These briefs present the arguments and legal issues that the parties wish the Supreme Court to consider in deciding a case after certiorari has been granted.
- Petitions for rehearing: These briefs are filed after the Court has issued a decision in a case, and they request that the Supreme Court reconsider its decision.