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Brief Writing in Oregon

A guide to stylistic and procedural resources for persons writing briefs for the Oregon Appellate courts.

Briefs' Function and Format

An appeal starts when one or both parties in a lawsuit are dissatisfied with a judgment. Those parties contend that some mistake was made in their case that led to an incorrect decision.  Eventually, the parties write an explanation of what they think the error was or wasn't for the appellate judge or justice. This document is called a brief

It is the purpose of this guide to direct you to some materials that may help you create a correctly formatted and persuasive brief. This guide is broken into two main parts.

Basic Terms and Definitions

Below are some terms you may run into when starting work on your brief. All the following definitions come from Black's Law Dictionary.

Definitions of Words Referring to Parties in a Lawsuit


A party who appeals a lower court's or agency's decision, usually seeking reversal of that decision.


A party against whom an appeal is taken and whose role is to respond to that appeal, usually seeking affirmance of the lower court's decision.


 A party who presents a petition to a court or other official body, esp. when seeking relief on appeal. — Also termed (archaically) plaintiff in error.


The party against whom an appeal is taken; APPELLEE. • In some appellate courts, the parties are designated as petitioner and respondent. In most appellate courts in the United States, the parties are designated as appellant and appellee. Often the designations depend on whether the appeal is taken by writ of certiorari (or writ of error) or by direct appeal.

Amicus Curiae

Someone who is not a party to a lawsuit but who petitions the court or is requested by the court to file a brief in the action because that person has a strong interest in the subject matter. — Often shortened to amicus. — Also termed friend of the court.

  • Judgment
    • A court's final determination of the rights and obligations of the parties in a case. • The term judgment includes an equitable decree and any other order from which an appeal lies. 
  • Authority 
    • A legal writing taken as definitive or decisive; esp., a judicial or administrative decision cited as a precedent <this case is good authority in Massachusetts>. • The term includes not only the decisions of tribunals but also statutes, ordinances, and administrative rulings.
  • Citation
    • A reference to a legal precedent or authority, such as a case, statute, or treatise, that either substantiates or contradicts a given position. — Often shortened to (in sense 3) cite.

** Black's Law Dictionary is a very useful book to look up definitions for legal words. Remember that words sometimes have different definitions in a legal context. The 2019 11th edition of Black's Law Dictionary is available for use in the SOLL library. You can also use a free public domain 1910 2nd edition Black's Law Dictionary that is available on the internet


**Please note that law librarians are only able to provide guidance for legal research purposes.**

For legal advice, you may want to contact the Oregon State Bar Lawyer Referral Service. The first in-office consultation with an attorney referred through this service is $35 or less. 

State of Oregon Employees: Contact the library for specialty legal research materials that may be available at your desktop.

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