48 Ways to Get Your Brief Rejected in Federal Court

Brief rejections damage your reputation as an attorney

It’s crucial for lawyers to steer clear of brief rejections in federal court to protect both their clients’ interests and their professional reputation. 

Rejected briefs not only cause frustrating delays and extra expenses, but also damage your credibility before the court. Rejections can lead to missed chances, potential penalties, and a setback in effective legal representation, straining the attorney-client bond and making it harder to achieve positive outcomes.

Local rules may differ slightly from the FRAP

By meticulously following requisite local court rules, as well as rules and guidelines as established by the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (FRAP), you can ensure smoother dispute resolution and maintain a positive and professional image in the legal community.

Here’s a comprehensive list of 48 reasons why your brief might be rejected from federal court:

  1. Failure to meet formatting requirements: Courts often have specific rules regarding margins, font size, line spacing, and other formatting details. Failure to adhere to these requirements may result in rejection. Fed. R. App. P 32 outlines the general standard for federal courts.
  2. Incorrect caption: The caption of the brief should accurately reflect the names of the parties and the case number. Any errors in the caption may lead to rejection. Some courts have specific requirements that differ from the FRAP. For example, in the Second Circuit, the docket number of the case must appear in type at least one inch high (see Local Rule 32.1(a)(1)).
  3. Missing or incorrect certificate of service: A certificate of service confirms that copies of the brief have been properly served on all parties to the case. Omitting or incorrectly completing this certificate can result in rejection. Service requirements are outlined in Fed. R. App. P. 25.
  4. Failure to comply with local rules: Each federal circuit court may have its own set of niche local rules governing the formatting and submission of briefs. Failure to comply with these rules can lead to rejection.
  5. Exceeding page limits: Courts typically impose page limits on briefs to ensure brevity and clarity. Fed. R. App. P 32(a)(7) outlines the page requirements. For example, “A principal brief may not exceed 30 pages, or a reply brief 15 pages, unless it complies with Rule 32(a)(7)(B).” If your brief exceeds these limits it may be rejected, unless you’ve been granted special permission.
  6. Failure to redact confidential information: Briefs filed in federal courts may contain sensitive or confidential information that must be redacted to comply with court rules. Failure to properly redact this information can lead to rejection.
  7. Incorrect citation format: Federal courts may have specific requirements for citing legal authorities such as cases, statutes, and regulations that differ from state manuals. See examples: California Style Manual vs. Bluebook Case Citations.
  8. Improper signature: Briefs require the signature of the attorney or party submitting the document. Failure to include a proper signature can lead to rejection. Signatures can be electronic. For example, Fed. R. App. 25 (a)(B)(iii) states: “(iii) Signing. A filing made through a person’s electronic-filing account and authorized by that person, together with that person’s name on a signature block, constitutes the person’s signature.” Learn more about why signatures matter in a legal brief.
  9. Late filing: Briefs must be filed within specific deadlines established by the court’s rules or any extensions granted by the court. Late-filed briefs may be rejected, unless you can show good cause for the delay.
  10. Lack of jurisdiction: The court must have jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties involved in the case. If jurisdiction is lacking, the brief may be rejected.
  11. Inadequate pleading of claims or defenses: Briefs should clearly articulate the claims or defenses being asserted by the parties. Failure to adequately plead these claims or defenses may result in rejection.
  12. Lack of standing: Parties must have standing to bring a case before the court. If a party lacks standing, the brief may be rejected.
  13. Failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted: Briefs must set forth legal claims that, if proven, would entitle the party to relief. Failure to state a viable legal claim can result in rejection.
  14. Lack of diversity jurisdiction: In cases involving diversity of citizenship, the parties must be citizens of different states and the amount in controversy must exceed a certain threshold. Failure to satisfy these requirements may result in rejection.
  15. Insufficient evidence: Briefs must be supported by sufficient evidence to establish the facts and legal arguments presented. Insufficient evidence can result in rejection.
  16. Failure to exhaust administrative remedies: In cases where administrative remedies must be exhausted before seeking relief in court, failure to do so may result in rejection of the brief.
  17. Incomplete or incorrect party information: The names and identities of the parties involved in the case must be accurately reflected in the brief. Errors or omissions in party information can lead to rejection.
  18. Failure to properly serve all parties: Briefs must be served on all parties to the case in accordance with court rules. Failure to properly serve all parties can result in rejection. Filing and Serving rules are outlined in Fed. R. App. 25.
  19. Failure to provide required notice to opposing parties: Some motions or briefs require advance notice to opposing parties. Failure to provide this notice may result in rejection.
  20. Inadequate or improper venue: The case must be filed in a proper venue as determined by law. Failure to file in the correct venue may result in rejection.
  21. Lack of subject matter jurisdiction: The court must have subject matter jurisdiction over the case. Failure to establish subject matter jurisdiction can result in rejection.
  22. Failure to follow court orders or directives: Briefs must comply with any court orders or directives issued by the judge presiding over the case. Failure to do so may result in rejection.
  23. Violation of court procedural rules: Briefs must comply with all applicable court procedural rules. Violation of these rules can lead to rejection.
  24. Inadequate or improper legal analysis: Briefs must contain a thorough and accurate analysis of the relevant legal issues. Inadequate or improper legal analysis may result in rejection.
  25. Improper citation or use of legal authorities: Briefs must accurately cite and use legal authorities such as cases, statutes, and regulations. The risk of fake, hallucinated citations is especially high if you rely on AI for your brief research. Some federal courts encourage the use of hyperlinked citations to make it easier for the reader to follow the argument.
  26. Inclusion of irrelevant or immaterial arguments: Briefs should focus on relevant legal arguments and issues. If you include irrelevant or immaterial arguments, your brief may be rejected.
  27. Failure to comply with electronic filing requirements: All federal courts require briefs to be filed electronically. Failure to comply with electronic filing requirements can result in rejection. Rules for Electronic Filing can be found in Fed. R. App. P. 25(a)(B). For example, “(i) By a Represented Person — Generally Required; Exceptions. A person represented by an attorney must file electronically, unless nonelectronic filing is allowed by the court for good cause or is allowed or required by a local rule.”
  28. Inadequate proofreading leading to typos or grammatical errors: You should carefully proofread your brief to ensure accuracy and clarity. If your brief includes typos or grammatical errors, it could be rejected.
  29. Failure to include required exhibits or attachments: If your brief references exhibits or attachments, they must be included with the filing. Failure to include required exhibits or attachments can result in rejection. 

    For example, the Second Circuit requires that a Special Appendix be attached to your brief if the appendix, exclusive of the orders, opinions, and judgments being appealed, exceeds 300 pages (see Local Rule 32.1 (c)). Similarly, the Sixth Circuit requires that each principal brief include a designation of relevant documents from the lower court record in an addendum to the brief (see 6 Cir. R. 30(g)(1)).
  1. Failure to comply with court-mandated alternative dispute resolution procedures: Some courts require parties to participate in alternative dispute resolution procedures such as mediation or arbitration. Failure to comply with these procedures may result in rejection.
  2. Inadequate or improper use of headings and subheadings: Briefs should use clear and concise headings and subheadings to organize the content. Inadequate or improper use of headings and subheadings may result in rejection.
  3. Lack of clarity or coherence in arguments: Briefs should present arguments and legal analysis in a clear and coherent manner. Lack of clarity or coherence may result in rejection.
  4. Failure to properly cite or distinguish relevant case law: Briefs must accurately cite and distinguish relevant case law. Failure to do so may result in rejection.
  5. Inadequate explanation of legal standards or principles: Briefs should provide a clear and accurate explanation of the legal standards or principles applicable to the case. Inadequate explanation may result in rejection.
  6. Inclusion of improper or inadmissible evidence: Briefs should only include evidence that is relevant and admissible. Inclusion of improper or inadmissible evidence may result in rejection.
  7. Violation of copyright restrictions: Briefs should not include copyrighted material without permission or proper attribution. Violation of copyright restrictions can result in rejection.
  8. Improper use of privileged information: Briefs should not disclose privileged information without proper authorization. Improper use of privileged information may result in rejection.
  9. Use of non-standard or illegible fonts: You may personally love Papyrus, but briefs should use standard and legible fonts to ensure readability. Using non-standard or illegible fonts may result in rejection.
  10. Failure to properly paginate the brief: Briefs should be properly paginated to facilitate navigation and referencing. Failure to properly paginate the brief may result in rejection.
  11. Failure to follow guidelines for binding and cover pages: Some courts have specific guidelines for the binding and cover pages of briefs. Failure to follow these guidelines may result in rejection.
  12. Failure to comply with rules regarding word count limitations: Fed. R. App. P. 32 outlines word count limits. It is typically 13,000 words for a principal brief, and this is consistent across the federal circuit courts. Failure to comply with word count limitations may result in rejection.
  13. Failure to disclose related cases or pending litigation: Parties may be required to disclose related cases or pending litigation. Some courts specifically require that a form be included to outline any related cases. For example, in the Ninth Circuit, you must file a Statement of Related Cases Pursuant to Circuit Rule 28-2.6. Failure to disclose this information may result in rejection.
  14. Inclusion of improper or inaccurate procedural history: Briefs should provide an accurate procedural history of the case. Including an improper or inaccurate procedural history could result in your brief being rejected. Here are some tips for writing a strong statement of facts and procedural history.
  15. Lack of authenticity or proper certification of documents: Briefs should include authentic and properly certified documents. Lack of authenticity or proper certification may result in rejection.
  16. Inadequate identification of issues presented for review: Briefs should clearly identify the issues presented for review by the court. Inadequate identification of issues may result in rejection.
  17. Failure to comply with rules regarding citation of unpublished opinions: Courts may have specific rules regarding the citation of unpublished opinions. Failure to comply with these rules may result in rejection.
  18. Inadequate explanation or argument regarding damages sought: Briefs should provide a clear and thorough explanation of the damages sought by the party. Inadequate explanation or argument may result in rejection.
  19. Failure to comply with court requirements regarding electronic signatures: Some courts may require electronic signatures on filed documents. Failure to comply with electronic signature requirements may result in rejection. Specific requirements can be found in Fed. R. App. 25.

The above 48 reasons highlight the complexity and attention to detail required when preparing and submitting briefs to federal courts. Adhering to court rules and procedural requirements is essential to ensure that your briefs aren’t rejected, and that the parties’ arguments are properly considered by the court.

Legaltech to help you file in federal court with confidence

Of course, the above is a lot of information to remember and get right when you’re preparing your brief — especially the myriad little formatting details. It can be particularly challenging when you’re under deadline pressure.

Legaltech solutions, such as TypeLaw, use AI automation to quickly format your brief in compliance with all federal filing requirements and local rules of court, so you can focus your attention on your argument and meet your filing deadline with total confidence.

Watch a short video to see how TypeLaw automated brief formatting can help you avoid common briefing mistakes.

Stay Updated

By opting in to our email list, you'll gain exclusive access to our latest content, tips for writing faster and better briefs, and exclusive offers.