Video: The Importance of Controlling the Semantic Playing Field
Which Comes First: the Issues or the Facts?
Like the chicken and egg, it can sometimes be a thorny question. If you have a lot of “good” facts on your side, you might want to jump right into the Statement of Facts, putting the issues off until you reach the Argument section of your brief. Bur if you have any appellate experience, you know that appellate courts always require a statement of the issues presented right up front in the appellant’s brief (the appellee has an opportunity to include a counterstatement of issues presented). Even though rules rarely require it, you should include a statement of the legal issues involved up front in trial court briefs as well, in an introduction or preliminary statement that also includes just enough facts for the court to understand the issues.
This is, in essence, the advice Scalia and Garner give in Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges. They continue with a warning that it behooves us all to heed:
But while your statement of the issue should come before a full statement of the facts, it must contain enough of the facts to make it informative. ‘Whether the appellant was in total breach of contract’ is a little help, but not much. Fill in the facts that narrow the issue to precisely what the court must decide: ‘The appellant delivered a load of stone two days late under a contract not providing that time was of the essence. Was the appellee entitled to reject the delivery and terminate the contract?’
Finally, don’t bother wasting the judge’s time with a boilerplate “Comes now plaintiff, ABC Corp. and submits this memorandum of law in support of its motion to dismiss defendant XYZ Corp.’s complaint seeking damages for breach of contract.” After all, most of that information should be in the document’s caption.
A Little-Known, Valuable Research Resource for New York Lawyers
The New York State Library is the greatest little-known, completely free, legal research resource for New York lawyers.
New York State Library members have remote access to an extensive collection of online databases in various subjects, and can borrow any circulating materials from the library’s collection. The Library also provides assistance with legislative history research.
New York State Library members get access to the following legal databases (among others)
- Fastcase: A comprehensive national law library that includes searching, sorting, and visualization tools.
- More than 20,000 full-text online journals and newspapers.
Additionally, the librarians at the reference desk are very helpful.
Borrowing Hard-Copy Materials
To borrow hard-copy materials, find the material you want via the online catalog, then request it via phone, fax, e-mail or online. Books are mailed to you at no cost; you just pay the cost of return shipping. Journal articles can be copied (for a fee) and delivered by mail, fax or e-mail.
Legislative History Research Assistance
The New York State Library offers a helpful online tutorial about researching New York legislative history Additionally, many New York legislative history documents are available only in hard copy at the Library. You can ask a reference librarian to compile the legislative history documents and mail, e-mail or fax them to you.
Who can be a Member of the New York State Library?
Any lawyer who is both a New York resident and admitted in New York can become a registered borrower. A law firm with a New York office can also become a member upon submission of an application signed by a partner. When a firm is a member, anyone can be identified as the office contact (including paralegals).