Appeals are decided based on the record and the briefs filed by the parties. A brief is a document wherein a party sets out the party’s contentions with regard to alleged district court error. The appellant files the opening brief. A deadline for that filing will be established by the court. The parties will be notified in writing of that deadline.
At the time the deadline for the opening brief is set, any pro se appellant will also be sent a form that may be completed and filed as the opening brief. However, the pro se litigant is not obligated to use the form. The pro se litigant may choose to file a brief that complies as closely as possible to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.
By operation of rule, any response brief(s) of the appellees are due within 30 days (plus an additional three days after service of the opening brief if service is not completed electronically). Appellees are not obligated to file a response brief and often elect not to.
If an appellee files a response brief, the appellant will be allowed 21 days (plus an additional three days after service of the response brief if service is not completed electronically) within which to file an optional final reply brief. Only one reply brief is permitted, regardless of the number of response briefs filed. If no response brief is filed, then no reply brief is permitted.
Handwritten briefs are acceptable. An opening brief and any response brief may not exceed thirty pages unless, at the end of the brief, there is a certification of the number of words in the brief and that word count is less than 13,000. A reply brief cannot exceed 15 pages unless there is a certification at the end of the brief regarding the number of words in the brief and that word count is less than 6,500.