Appellate Advocacy Blog

Editor: Tessa L. Dysart
The University of Arizona
James E. Rogers College of Law

Monday, December 30, 2013

Subheaders for the Facts Section

Following up on Tonya's recent post re: organizing the statement of the case, I thought I'd share some additional sources and thoughts on using subheaders for breaking up the facts section. 

Two of the best sources I've seen on this topic are Ross Guberman's Point Made and Noah Messing's The Art of Advocacy.  Guberman says that "[n]early all the top advocates break up their fact sections through headings."  Then he uses one of the DOJ's briefs in United States v. (Martha) Stewart to illustrate how it can be done:

  1. "Get Martha on the Phone"
  2. "Peter Bacanovic Thinks ImClone is Going to Start Trading Downward"
  3. Stewart Sells Her ImClone Stock
  4. "Something is Going on With ImClone and Martha Stewart Wants to Know What"
  5. Stewart's Conversation With Mariana Pasternak
  6. The Investigation Begins
  7. The Tax Loss Selling Cover Story
  8. January 3, 2002: Faneuil Lies to Investigators
  9. Bacanovic Changes the Cover Story
  10. January 7, 2002: Bacanovic Lies to Investigators
  11. Stewart Alerts Bacanovic's Telephone Message
  12. February 4, 2002: Stewart Lies to Investigators
  13. February 13, 2002: Bacanovic Lies in Sworn Testimony
  14. March 7, 2002: Faneuil Lies to Investigators Again
  15. April 10, 2002: Stewart Lies to Investigators Again
  16. Stewart's False Public Statements
  17. Faneuil Reveals the Truth
  18. Bacanovic's Defense Case
  19. Stewart's Defense Case
  20. The Government's Rebuttal Case
  21. Judgment of Acquital on Count Nine
  22. The Verdict

These headings (alone) tell the Government's story.  And notice how they aren't neutral; they're argumentative.  Nothing wrong with that.  Messing, for example, says that "an argumentative heading tells readers exactly what to expect."  

Also, notice how all of the verbs are in present tense.  Guberman says it's a good idea to "strive for novelistic effect" in the facts section and that using present tense verbs in the headings is "another way to give your headings a novelistic feel." 

If you want to see more examples of how subheadings can help in the facts section, take a look at Point Made and The Art of Advocacy.  Both books are worth having on your shelf.

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Excellent sources and examples. I've been reviewing the Messing book just recently and am also becoming a fan. Well recommended; thanks!

Posted by: Tonya Kowalski | Jan 4, 2014 8:09:19 AM

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