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Appellate Brief Rubric*


Score on assignment = _____________/96

(*Points /48 must be doubled)

Highly Proficient Proficient Developing Beginning

In addition to full compliance with Each component evaluated here is Each basic brief component is One or more basic brief components
(7 points) (2) Statement of the Case, (3) Statement ofBasic Brief Components: (1) Statement of

each applicable Local Rule, each basic written in accordance with the legitimately attempted, but several are missing from the brief or one or
brief component demonstrates applicable Local Rule. There are components fall short in that they more are so poorly executed, they
effective persuasive techniques, signs of sophisticated choices in could have been presented more offer little to the reader. A failure to
appropriately and accurately organization, use of facts, persuasively. Some of the ways to understand the purposes of the basic
incorporating specific facts and incorporation of law, and other fall short here include the following: brief components is evident from the
reference to the law consistently in persuasive techniques, though not necessary information is omitted, poor execution of one of more basic
the Issue,

ways that favor the client. Each consistently throughout all signs of poor or no organizational brief components. There is no clear
component clearly communicates its components. Despite some minor choices, objective tone, failure to theme, or the theme used is so poorly
intended information, and the basic weaknesses, each component is comply with the applicable Local executed as to detract from the
brief components present a solid persuasive in tone, with clear Rule requirements for content. strength of the basic brief
foundation for the argument, evidence of which side is There is a hint at a theme, but most components, or the theme may be
providing support for the substance represented through the brief. basic brief components do not erroneous on the facts or law. There
of the argument. There is a Though a theme is present, it may successfully incorporate the theme. is little to no evidence of
persuasive theme and it is used be underdeveloped in some of the Weak organizational choices organizational choice and there are
effectively, where appropriate, in the components. For the most part, pervade several of the components. errors or misstatements of law or
basic components. Organizational sound organizational choices facts, or both.
choices make sense and support the support the underlying content of
underlying content of each basic brief each basic brief component, but
component. Overall, these there may be some over- or under-
components are crisp, sophisticated, detailed content, or some lack of
and properly detailed. crispness.

6-7 points 3-5 points 2 points 1 point

ent, (5) Conclusion

Highly Proficient Proficient Developing Beginning
The argument section is well- A concerted effort has been made at The argument overall is confusingly The argument demonstrates a lack of
Argument / Point Headings (7

organized by issue/ argument and organization and TREAT. However, structured. Rules and Explanation organizational method. For example,
Organizational Choice in

sub- argument, and generally follows some arguments or elements could on the issues are often blurred. there is no distinction among the R, E,
TREAT. Any variations on TREAT be better placed and there is an Organizational aspects of TREAT are and A and/or information related to
reflect strategic and persuasive overall lack of crispness between not as well-executed as papers in R and E is definitely blended or
rationale, and support the overall arguments, RE and RA, or the the category to the left, suggesting blurred (when that is inappropriate
persuasive strength of the argument issue(s). There may be rare failure to consider organizational given the legal issues). The
or sub-argument. No paragraphs instances of the following: choices or poorly executed Application sections are case-by-case
begin with “In X case;” Rule and paragraphs beginning with “In X organizational choices. There may or fact-by-fact rather than
Explanation sentences and case;” RE sentences or paragraphs be pervasive use of “In X case,” to synthesized and organized by RE
paragraphs are organized from organized other than general to begin paragraphs, and for the most principle. There is a weak attempt to
general to specific; and Application specific; A sections organized by part, the application sections are include umbrella/introductory
sections are organized into facts or authorities, rather than by organized around facts or paragraphs where appropriate; they

paragraphs mirroring the organized principle. On the whole, authorities, rather than by principle are so confusingly written as to
RE principles (rather than case by umbrella/introductory paragraphs (following the RE). detract from the strength of the
case or fact by fact). The argument are used where appropriate to Where appropriate, argument. Any roadmaps are
includes umbrella/introductory introduce subdivisions and are umbrella/introductory paragraphs presented objectively. Or there are
paragraphs where appropriate and constructed in a persuasive manner; are legitimately attempted, but lack no umbrella/introductory
the umbrella paragraphs are used there are some signs of objective clarity, or are overly objective, or fail paragraphs and no roadmaps, and
effectively and persuasively. tone in the roadmaps, but not to include a persuasive roadmap. using them would have contributed
Roadmaps are used as an enough to detract from the strength Point headings are clear but suffer to the strength of the argument’s
opportunity to reinforce the of the argument. Point headings are substantively, structurally, or lack a organization. Point headings lack
argument, rather than present an strong but could be improved by persuasive tone. There may be hints structural and substantive clarity.
objective list of what follows. Point more explicit fact content, a more at the theme, but not enough to There is no sign of the theme in the
headings are parallel, succinct, streamlined structure, or more indicate clearly to the reader that organizational choices of the
complete (legal conclusion + LSFs), obviously persuasive tone. There was intentional. argument and crafting of point
and persuasively written. A reader are some signs of the theme in the headings.
has a clear and persuasive sense of organizational choices and point
the argument by reading just the headings, but the theme could be
point headings. Organizational better or more clearly developed.
choices and content of point
headings further develop and
support the theme.
2 points
6-7 points 3-5 points 1 point

Highly Proficient Proficient Developing Beginning
The paper explains rules thoroughly The paper demonstrates solid The paper demonstrates a rather The arguments either lack significant
Sophistication of Argument

but pointedly in favor of the party command of the legal issues, but surface-level understanding of the content or are confusingly presented
represented; a deep understanding of persuasive techniques are lacking at legal issues and factual nuances. so as to mask such content. They
the legal issues is evident in the times (rhetorically or substantively). The legal arguments are correct but generally fall flat, or are under-
(11 points)

rhetoric, structure, and content of the Better choices could have been overall could be deeper and more explored/explained, and these
argument. The argument is made in terms of explaining or compelling in content and deficiencies are more pervasive than
enhanced with policy rationales and supporting the position and some presentation. There are few if any in papers that fall into the Developing
other non-rule-based authority, if lack of sensitivity to factual nuances misstatements of law or fact, but the range. Factual details are overlooked
appropriate and persuasive. Counter- in the problem is apparent. The end result is lack-luster in some and/or misunderstood. Some lack of
arguments are anticipated, paper is solid but fine-tuning is respects. E.g., it may be, at times, command of the legal issues and/or
persuasively addressed and analyzed necessary, e.g., more persuasive confusing, overly conclusory, or problem in general is evident. The
to further support the party’s analysis of counter-arguments. The under-appreciative of factual appropriate standard of review(s) is
position. Counter-arguments are appropriate standard(s) of review is details. The appropriate standard of included in the argument, but it is
incorporated into the primary included in the argument and there review(s) is included in the completely left out of the substance
argument, rather than presented as are signs of the standard argument, but it is, on the whole, left of the argument and used merely as a
what the other side may argue, incorporated into the argument. out of the substance of the statement of the applicable standard
followed by a response. The There are also missed opportunities argument and used merely as a of review. Or the paper fails to
appropriate standard(s) of review is to frame the argument within the statement of the applicable identify the standard of review, or the
used to frame the argument; the standard of review (e.g., not standard of review. There are signs wrong standard of review is
standard is infused effectively and explicitly linking the standard to of legitimate attempts to identified.
persuasively throughout the how the court should view the facts incorporate the standard of review
argument (e.g., explaining how the and legal analysis below, or not into the argument, but these
court should view the facts and legal explaining how the court should use attempts are underdeveloped (e.g.,
analysis below, and demonstrating to the standard in ruling on the case). merely restating the standard).
the court how to rule within the
standard of review).
5-8 points
9-11 points 3-4 points 1-2 points

Highly Proficient Proficient Developing Beginning
The paper demonstrates strong and The paper demonstrates strong The paper demonstrates a weak The paper does not demonstrate
Argument (11 points)
Use of Authorities in

comprehensive research ability and command of the research. command of the research, either by adequate research, and/or misses a
nuanced reading of the applicable Authorities are used accurately but failure to use the authorities major element of the problem. E.g.,
law. Authorities are well-selected, at times not effectively. E.g., key effectively, failure to use appropriate key cases are omitted and/or used
analyzed, and not over-quoted. They authorities are present but are and relevant authorities, or both. incorrectly. There are insufficient
are used accurately to define, explain, quoted where deeper analysis is Unsynthesized R, E, and A pervades factual comparisons, and/or any
and apply the rules and sub-rules. necessary resulting in some the argument, and persuasive comparisons that were made are
Persuasive authority is used in a unsynthesized RE; there is room for authority is treated as mandatory uniformly weak. Overall, it seems that
sophisticated and appropriate further research, or even when best with no argument for how or why the student has not gotten her “hands
manner. Authorities are synthesized authorities are selected, they might the court should rely on those dirty” with the authorities (and
to demonstrate an understanding of have been further pushed or persuasive authorities. Analogies perhaps the problem overall).
the legal arguments present in the probed; analogies and distinctions and distinctions are Conclusory statements (conclusions
brief. Analogies and distinctions are are strong but could be more underdeveloped and are not without legal support) pervade the
illuminating, nuanced and well- explicitly tied to conclusions and persuasively constructed; nuances analysis and generalizations
crafted; they are explicit and could more effectively focus on are repeatedly overlooked and characterize the case comparisons.
expressly compare and contrast to nuanced factual similarities and presumptions that are not fully The lower court’s opinion is not
the facts of the case in specific and distinctions. There may be some supported are made. Factual incorporated into the brief.
helpful ways and are used to support lack of rationale to support the comparisons and contrasts are often
the legal arguments/conclusions. conclusion for why the analogy or narrowly structured; this narrow
Analogies and distinctions are distinction matters to the argument. view of the facts in the precedent
supported not only by factual Some factual comparisons or cases results in a shallow analysis
content, but by clear and substantive contrasts may be narrowly drawn, and missed opportunities at
inclusion of the court’s rationale to missing an opportunity for broader persuasion. A paper falls into this
support the conclusion drawn in the application, resulting in a shallow range if it fails to identify or analyze
brief. The brief appropriately and analysis, but this is rare. Persuasive one or more minor sub-arguments.
persuasively incorporates the lower authority is used appropriately and An attempt is made to incorporate
court’s opinion, referencing it as accurately as a buttress to the lower court’s opinion, but the
necessary in framing and organizing mandatory authority (vs. treated as opinion is not effectively used to
the arguments. equal to mandatory authority). For frame and organize the arguments.
the most part, the brief Or there may be a misstatement or
appropriately and persuasively misinterpretation of the lower
incorporates the lower court’s court’s opinion.
opinion, referencing it as necessary
in framing and organizing the

9-11 points 5-8 points 3-4 points 1-2 points

Highly Proficient Proficient Developing Beginning
Writing is fluid and sophisticated; Writing overall is crisp and clear, but The paper comports with basic The paper on the whole is difficult to
Writing Style (7 points)

language is polished and fine-tuned; word choice/syntax could be grammar rules but lacks flow read and understand given pervasive
paragraphs are tightly-crafted. improved in places and/or because of failure to use transitions, stylistic errors, such as failure to
Thesis/topic sentences are used ratcheted up or down in terms of poor paragraphing, sentence adhere to rules of grammar or
effectively and consistently, and persuasion. Thesis/topic sentences structure, etc. Though there may be punctuation. Or, there are so many
paragraphs support them. are generally used effectively, but evidence of proofreading, the paper technical errors in the paper that the
Substantive and generic transitions not always. Similarly, though on the suffers from enough easily-avoided reader is frequently distracted from
within and between paragraphs are whole transitions are well-done, errors to distract the reader from the content. There is evidence the
well-executed, making the brief a there are some places lacking the analysis, but these are student did not have time to
pleasure to read. The paper contains transitions or some transitions occasional, not pervasive flaws. proofread.
few, if any, errors in style, grammar, could be more effectively executed.
or punctuation. Errors in writing or proofreading do
not detract from readability or
interfere with the overall strength of
the argument.

6-7 points 3-5 points 2 points 1 point

Citation is used appropriately and Some noticeable errors in citation Cites are underused or missing in obvious places.
(5 points)Citation and Formatting

consistently throughout the format, but these errors do not

document. Sources can be readily predominate. Reader generally AND/OR: There are enough errors that the reader questions whether legal
identified based on the information would be able to locate source authorities support writer’s prediction/analysis.
included in the citation. The paper material. Importantly, citations are
demonstrates knowledge of citation placed well (irrespective of AND/OR: Citation formatting is problematic enough that reader would have
rules and an awareness of the occasional technical errors). There difficulty locating sources.
significance of pointing the reader to are at most a small handful of
legal authorities. Proper full and formatting issues (per the Local
short pincites; proper quotes. There Rules), but these are minor, limited, AND/OR: Formatting errors (per the Local Rules) are more than a handful,
are no formatting issues (per the and/or not distracting. more than minor, or distracting.
Local Rules).
5 points 3-4 points 1-2 points