I recall reading that at the circuit judge appellate level, the answer is yes. But I’m more wondering specifically about the district judge or deputy district judge level of first instance.

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    Some do, some don't. I don't think there is definitive rule either way and it may depend, in part, on the case's notoriety and/or complexity.
    – user35069
    Feb 27, 2023 at 17:03

1 Answer 1


In U.S. practice in almost all jurisdictions, court orders must be memorialized in a signed or electronically signed writing transmitted to the parties and/or counsel. But, this can be a bare recitation of the result.

The extent to which it must be reasoned is discretionary, and the reasoning can be supplied by an oral statement of the judge in lieu of a writing. Oral statements of reasoning in lieu of written judgments are common in courts of limited jurisdiction comparable to English County Courts, but written opinions are issued now and then in more complex cases or where legal issues were argued in closing arguments.

A ruling of a judge sitting without a jury may be vacated and remanded by an appellate court for further proceedings, if the factual and legal basis for the ruling is not articulated with sufficient clarity to allow an appellate court to determine if the trial court's decision was legally correct and supported by the trial court record.

Juries, of course, are not requires to articulate their reasoning and enter a bare verdict of liability and damages, or guilty and not guilty as to each charge (and in rare instances also answer one or more "special verdict" questions) in the manner set forth on the jury verdict form provided to the jury.

In limited jurisdiction courts where the sole appeal is a trial de novo in a higher court, called "courts not of record", a written statement of reasons is unnecessary as any appeal will not be based upon the trial court record.

  • What do you mean by “where legal issues were brought up in closing arguments “? Wouldn’t that be the entire purpose of closing arguments? Feb 28, 2023 at 2:13
  • I think it's also useful to be clear that the record includes a written transcription of the oral proceedings of the court (either created live or from an audio recording) that can be referred to and considered in later appeals and further proceedings. Thus, oral statements are permanent, just as written ones are.
    – user71659
    Feb 28, 2023 at 6:31
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    @Seekinganswers Closing arguments before a jury are mostly restricted to a dramatized reiteration of the facts and evidence presented in the case (and most relevant to their case; you wouldn't usually harp on the things that are problematic to your case, unless you can undercut them well). Legal issues are usually not brought up before the jury, which are triers of fact not law, but instead argued and ruled upon away from the jury (often before a jury is even empaneled) between the attorneys and the judge. Feb 28, 2023 at 16:44
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    @zibadawatimmy Closing arguments are when you apply the law as set forth in jury instructions to the facts presented at trial in a jury trial. Legal issues are routinely brought up to a jury in this fashion in closing arguments.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 28, 2023 at 19:52
  • @ohwilleke Is there a simple/typical example of what you'd call a "legal issue" brought up to the jury during closing arguments, or would that be better served by a whole new Q&A? Arguments about how evidence does/doesn't meet the legally required standards to support a charge doesn't strike me as a "legal issue" per se, but perhaps I'm just not grasping the term in the correct sense. Mar 1, 2023 at 15:57

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