U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Appellate Procedure Guide
December 2023

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BRIEFING : Informal Briefing

Informal Briefing
Use of Informal Briefing Schedule
Under Local Rule 34(b), the court uses an informal briefing schedule in cases involving pro se litigants to permit the court to consider the merits without requiring the pro se litigant to comply with formal briefing requirements. The court also uses an informal preliminary briefing schedule prior to the grant of a full or partial certificate of appealability in counseled, non-capital appeals from the denial of relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 or 2255.
Informal Brief Content and Format
The clerk provides an informal brief form that asks appellant to identify the issues and facts supporting the appeal. Use of the form is not mandatory, and the parties may file a memorandum addressing the issues on appeal. The informal brief and any supporting memorandum may not exceed the length limitations established by Fed. R. App. P. 32(a)(7). It is not necessary to cite cases in an informal brief.
No Appendix
No appendix or record excerpts are required. Instead, the court reviews the record from the district court.
Informal Briefing Deadlines
Informal Preliminary Briefing Deadlines
In appeals under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 or 2255 in which no certificate of appealability has been granted, the informal opening brief is due 21 days after service of the informal preliminary briefing order. No additional briefing is ordered unless a certificate of appealability is granted. If a certificate of appealability is granted, briefing proceeds as usual.
Failure to File Brief
Appointment of Counsel for Formal Briefing and Oral Argument
The court initially reviews cases that are informally briefed under its procedures set forth in Local Rule 34(a) pertaining to pre-argument review. If the panel reviewing an informal brief submitted by an indigent pro se litigant determines that further briefing and possible oral argument would be of assistance, counsel will be appointed and directed to file additional formal briefs. Loc. R. 34(b).
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