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Lisa writes appellate briefs and prepares excerpts of record for Arizona federal criminal appeals before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and federal habeas motions for post-conviction relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.


An appellant (defendant) may appeal a jury’s verdict of guilty in a federal criminal case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by filing a notice of appeal with the Arizona federal district court within 14 days according to Rule 4(b)(1)(A) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (FRAP).  The 2017 Annual Report United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit noted that 15.9% of criminal appeals were reversed or remanded back to the federal district courts for FYE 2017.


Congress created the Ninth Circuit in 1837.  Currently, the Ninth Circuit is the appellate court for federal district courts in Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Northern Mariana Islands, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.  It is the largest federal appeals court in the country and is based in San Francisco. 


An appellant must comply with both the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (FRAP) and the Ninth Circuit Rules (Ninth Cir.R.).  Ninth Cir.R. 30-1 requires an appellant and  appellee (the government) to prepare and file excerpts of record which are portions of the record deemed necessary for the Ninth Circuit to make a decision in the case.  The excerpts of record must first be filed electronically with appellant’s opening brief and then mailed after the Ninth Circuit Clerk has directed him to do so.  Ninth Cir.R. 30-2 provides sanctions for failure to comply with Rule 30-1.


The format and contents of Appellant’s opening brief are governed by FRAP 28 and 32 as well as Ninth Cir.R. 28-2. Required contents are the Table of Contents; Table of Authorities; Jurisdiction, Timeliness, and Bail Status; Issue(s) Presented; Statement of Case with references to the Excerpts of Record; Summary of Argument; Standard(s) of Review (if not included within each argument section); Argument with references to record and citations to case law, statutes, and other authorities; Conclusion; Signature block including date; Statement of Related Cases; and Certificate of Service.  The opening brief must be no longer than 30 pages or up to 14,000 words.


Possible issues presented in the opening brief may concern violation of appellant’s constitutional rights, admission of prejudicial evidence, miscalculation of Sentencing Guidelines, and unreasonableness of the sentence.  Additional issues concerning the Ninth Circuit’s jurisdiction may also be present.


Preparing and filing an opening brief and excerpts of record is a time-consuming process filled with frustration for an appellant attempting to represent himself or an inexperienced attorney.  Lisa has the passion and experience necessary to prepare and file persuasive opening briefs and excerpts of record.  Please call LisaLaw, LLC or fill out the online form for a free case review.


28 U.S.C. § 2255 is one of the federal habeas statutes found in the United States Code.  It provides that a federal prisoner in custody claiming the right to be released because the sentence imposed violated the U.S. Constitution or U.S. law, the court lacked jurisdiction to impose the sentence, the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law or is otherwise subject to collateral attack may file a motion with the sentencing court to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.  The motion must be filed within one year of the date that the judgment of conviction becomes final.                                      


Most post-conviction relief defendants are sentenced pursuant to a plea agreement with an appeal waiver provision.  Whether or not the appeal waiver provision is legally valid depends on the language of the appeal waiver, the facts of the case, and Ninth Circuit case law.



The First Step Act became law on December 21, 2018.  Section 404 of the Act permits defendants sentenced to harsh sentences for crack cocaine offenses before the passage of the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act to file a motion for retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act.

Preparing and filing a federal post-conviction relief motion is a very detail-oriented process involving meticulous legal research.  Lisa is very detail-oriented and extremely thorough with her legal research.  Please call LisaLaw, LLC or fill out the online form for a free case review.

Lisa Witt is a Mesa/Phoenix, Arizona Post Conviction relief (PCR) attorney serving clients in the East Valley, West Valley, Maricopa County, Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler, Fountain Hills, Apache Junction, Gold Canyon,  Tucson, Queen Creek, Gilbert, Casa Grande, Surprise, Goodyear, Buckeye, Youngtown, Ahwatukee, Avondale, Tolleson.

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