HomeLegal Writing › How to Write a Statement of the Standard of Review in Five Simple Steps

How to Write a Statement of the Standard of Review in Five Simple Steps

In an earlier post entitled Scope v. Standard (of Review) in a Nutshell, I mentioned the difficulty many lawyers have with these critical elements of appellate practice.  This is a short guide for writing a statement of the standard of review in as few as five steps.

1.  First Sentence

Because a statement of the standard of review often appears early in an appellate brief, put the issue in context first.

The district court interpreted 28 U.S.C. § 1961 to mean that post-judgment interest on prejudgment interest does not begin to run until the district court issues an order quantifying the amount of prejudgment interest due.

2.  Second Sentence

In the second sentence, identify the type of underlying issue resolved by the lower court and the applicable standard of review in a simple, concise statement.

Statutory interpretation presents a question of law over which this Court exercises de novo review.

3.  Citation

Provide a citation to mandatory authority.  Generally, one citation is sufficient for a well-established standard of review.  If no mandatory decision addressing the precise issue exists, then consider including a second citation from outside the jurisdiction.  This is not required, but it can be helpful and demonstrate your understanding of the standard of review.

Pell v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 539 F.3d 292, 305 (3d Cir. 2008). 

See also American Telephone and Telegraph Company v. United Computer Systems, 98 F.3d 1206, 1209 (9th Cir. 1996) (treating the interpretation of 28 U.S.C. § 1961 as a pure issue of law subject to de novo review on appeal).

4.  Last Sentence

In the last sentence, define the standard of review.

Under a de novo standard of review, this Court owes no deference to the district court’s statutory interpretation analysis.

5.  Citation

Again, cite to a mandatory decision supporting your proposition.

See Pell, 539 F.3d at 305.

Final Result:

The district court interpreted 28 U.S.C. § 1961 to mean that post-judgment interest on prejudgment interest does not begin to run until the district court issues an order quantifying the amount of prejudgment interest due.  Statutory interpretation presents a question of law over which this Court exercises de novo review. Pell v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 539 F.3d 292, 305 (3d Cir. 2008). See also American Telephone and Telegraph Company v. United Computer Systems, 98 F.3d 1206, 1209 (9th Cir. 1996) (treating the interpretation of 28 U.S.C. § 1961 as a pure issue of law subject to de novo review on appeal). Under a de novo standard of review, this Court owes no deference to the district court’s statutory interpretation analysis. See Pell, 539 F.3d at 305.

Adding boilerplate language or copying and pasting from other appellate briefs does nothing to aid the court and can damage your credibility.  The best practice is researching and specifically tailoring the statement of the standard of review to your case.

*Information in this post was based on a 2009 Continuing Legal Education presentation by Julia Glencer at Duquesne University School of Law.

2 Comments.[ Leave a comment ]

  1. [...] is actually about a post on another blog entitled “How to Write a Statement of the Standard of Review in Five Simple Steps.” While the post give great step-by-step instructions for writing a statement of the standard [...]

  2. The standard of review is the most important part of an appellate brief, particularly if you are the appellant. It really makes all the difference if you can couch something as a purely legal argument and get a favorable standard of review. Too often, lawyers treat this section as an afterthought. Nice post.

Leave a Comment


− four = 3


*