How to Write a Trial Court Memo

By Brian Richards
How to Write a Trial Court Memo

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Trial court memoranda are filed with the clerk of the court for the presiding judge to read before he holds a trial. Typically, the plaintiff and defendant in a case will each file a memo that explains their understanding of the facts of the matter, the law they believe will determine the outcome of the trial, and the conclusion they believe the judge should reach. Lawyers spend a great deal of time researching, preparing, drafting and revising trial court memos, and some memos can take months to finalize as they contain input from many attorneys. Litigants that represent themselves may also submit trial court memos, and their memos should follow the same basic format attorneys use.

Insert the heading that is appropriate for the court. Every court has different rules regarding how the heading should be structured, though all require the names of the two parties, the case number assigned by the court, and the date of submission. The guidelines for headings are available from the clerk of the court.

Provide the "Question Presented," which is the question of law or fact that you want the judge to decide. Your question should include a few of the essential facts of the case, but should be very brief and concise.

Write a "Brief Answer" to the question you posed. This area will serve as the thesis of your memo, and should briefly analyze the reasons why you believe the judge should rule in your favor. Summarize the law you believe should be used to analyze the case.

Provide a "Statement of Facts" that details all of the facts that are material to the case. You can outline the facts briefly, and do not need to worry about proving any of your contentions at this stage. Any facts that are contested by the opposing party will need to be proved at trial. Avoid editorializing in the statement of facts; instead, detail the facts in a neutral way similar to how a reporter might describe the event.

Write an IRAC for each of your legal arguments. IRAC stands for Issue, Rule, Application and Conclusion. Each legal argument you make should outline the issue of law, or fact the judge must decide, the rule that you believe should be used to determine the issue of law or fact, a decision about how the rule should be applied to the facts of the case, and a conclusion summarizing your argument.

Summarize your trial court memo with a conclusion that reiterates your major legal arguments, and the facts of the case that support your point of view.

About the Author

Brian Richards is an attorney whose work has appeared in law and philosophy journals and online in legal blogs and article repositories. He has been a writer since 2008. He holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from University of California, San Diego and a Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark School of Law.

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