1. A written argument furnished to the court which sets forth the pertinent facts of the case or motion being tried or heard and the laws applicable to it.
  2. Either the outline of a case made in preparation for a class, or a written argument for Legal Writing and Research.
  3. When a party (either through her lawyer or in pro per) submits a written legal argument to a court--usually to support a motion or a position asserted at a trial--the document is often called a brief. It typically consists of a statement of the facts relevant to the case and arguments supported by references to legal authority (statutes, regulations or earlier court decisions). Many briefs are quite lengthy; the label 'brief' is an infamous misnomer celebrated by the writer Franz Kafka who described a lawyer as 'a person who writes a 10,000 word document and calls it a brief.'

Contents of a Brief

A brief usually contains a memorandum of points and authorities. Points and authorities explain why the law authorizes the judge to take the requested action. The term points and authorities comes from the fact that the legal discussion makes certain points followed by citations to legal authority (usually a court decision or statute) supporting each point.

An abridged statement of a party's case should contain:

  1. A statement of the names of the parties, and of their residence and occupation, the character in which they sue and are sued, and wherefore they prosecute or resist the action.
  2. An abridgment of all the pleadings.
  3. A regular, chronological, and methodical statement of the facts in plain common language.
  4. A summary of the points or questions in issue, and of the proof which is to support such issues, mentioning specially the names of the witnesses by which the facts are to be proved, or if there be written evidence, an abstract of such evidence.
  5. The personal character of the witnesses should be mentioned; whether the moral character is good or bad, whether they are naturally timid or over-zealous, whether firm or wavering.
  6. If known, the evidence of the opposite party, and such facts as are adapted to oppose, confute, or repel it. Perspicuity and conciseness are the most desirable qualities of a brief, but when the facts are material they cannot be too numerous when the argument is pertinent and weighty, it cannot be too extended.

Eccl. Law. The name of a kind of papal rescript. Briefs are writings sealed with wax, and differ in this respect from bulls, which are scaled with lead. They are so called, because they usually are short compendious writings.