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As of October 1, 2020 there are new rules for appeals briefs in Alabama. The changes bring Alabama in line with most other states and the federal courts that use word counts instead of page limits for briefs. The new rules also eliminate the requirement that briefs be written in an old typewriter font. Read on to see a Sample Alabama Appeals Brief.

Updated Sample Brief

We’ve updated our earlier post about what you must include in your appellate brief. That post has a more in-depth discussion of what you need in your brief. Even if your appeal is without the help of a lawyer, it is important to follow the briefing rules. Failure to follow the rules could result in your appeal being dismissed.

The New Brief Looks Different

The biggest difference between the old and new rules will be the updated look of the brief.  Compare the look of the old brief with the new one.

Sample-Brief-First-Page

Click to Enlarge the “Old Version”

The old brief (above) used a typewriter font known as Courier New.  It was a holdover from the time before lawyers and judges had computers with word-processing programs. Old habits die hard. Alabama was the last state that required this dated look in appellate filings.

The updated rules require a larger and more common font. Those changes combine to give the updated brief (below) a more modern look.

Click to enlarge the Updated Version

The new brief uses a font called Century Schoolbook, a font designed for use in textbooks.

Use Word Counts Instead of Page Limits

The new appellate rules also do away with page limits for most appellants. However, this doesn’t mean that the length of your brief is unlimited. Rather, instead of counting the pages, you now have to stay below the word limit. For the appellant’s opening brief the word limit is 14,000 words.

In addition to staying below the word limit, the updated rules require you to certify to the court that you stayed below the word limit. Indeed, a new section was added to the brief in which you are to tell the court:

  1. I used Century Schoolbook 14 font; and
  2. I used [X number] of words.

You can use the word count function of your word processing program to tell you how many words you used. If you used Microsoft Word, you’ll usually find a running count of the words used in the bottom left of the program screen.

The requirement that you count the number of words does not apply if you are pro se – meaning you do not have a lawyer helping you with the appeal. If you don’t have a lawyer, the old page limit rules apply. For most appellant briefs, this would be 70 pages.

Get More Help With Your Alabama Appeal

  1. If you have an appeal coming up there are lots of resources out there for you. My favorite concise reminder of how to talk to judges is the book Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges;
  2. Read the Brownehouse blogs on appeals for what worked, and how timing can mess up even the best appeal;
  3. If you need a sample brief template to get you started try this one: UPDATED-Sample-Appellant-Brief; and
  4. Give the lawyers at Browne House Law a call. Browne House Law takes appeals from all corners of Alabama.