Friday, September 19, 2014

Ignoring Court Rules...Not Just for Less Experienced Attorneys!

Judicial opinions addressing publicly and for all time the misdeeds of attorneys (i.e., a bench slap) are not uncommon. Whether its for poor legal writing or a brief riddled with inaccuracies that seem to amount to outright lies, judges hold officers of the court to high standards. Now, not everyone can be the Bryan A. Garner of the legal writing world, and sometimes you write what you think is true but your clients have misrepresented facts to you. Perhaps you deserve a pass in those situations. But there's one thing it is easy to get right: court rules about spacing and other technical formatting issues. For example, Rule 3.09 of the 2013 Rules of Practice for the Supreme Court of Ohio states
(a) Every original document filed with the Supreme Court shall be single-sided, shall be typewritten or prepared by, computer, word processor or other standard typographic process, and shall comply with the requirements of this rule. (b) The text of all documents shall be at least 12-point type and in one of the following (i) Times New Roman; (ii) Cambria; (iii) Calibri; (iv) Arial Standard (i.e. not Black, Rounded, Unicode or Narrow); (v) Palatino Linotype. . . . The text of all documents shall be double-spaced. Footnotes and quotations may be single-spaced; however, they shall also be in 12-point type.
Alas, when you have more to say to the court, but it limits you to a mere 35 pages, it is awfully tempting to skirt (perhaps flout) the rules and hope the court does not notice. Here's the latest from the BP oil spill case:
BP’s counsel filed a brief that, at first blush, appeared just within the 35-page limit. A closer study reveals that BP’s counsel abused the page limit by reducing the line spacing to slightly less than double-spaced. As a result, BP exceeded the (already enlarged) page limit by roughly 6 pages. The Court should not have to waste its time policing such simple rules—particularly in a case as massive and complex as this. Counsel are expected to follow the Court’s orders both in letter and in spirit. The Court should not have to resort to imposing character limits, etc., to ensure compliance. Counsel’s tactic would not be appropriate for a college term paper. It certainly is not appropriate here. Any future briefs using similar tactics will be struck.