Sep 29
11:58 AM

BP Lawyers Receive Reprimand for Skirting Formatting Rules

Lawyer 1: Dang, we’re six pages over the page limit for our memo
Lawyer 2: I’ve got it, all we need to do is decrease the margins and the line spacing!
Lawyer 1: Genius! I’ll bet NO ONE has ever thought of that before.

Judge:  -___-


In early September lawyers representing oil company BP filed a brief that skirted a 35-page limit by reducing line spacing in the brief to slightly less than double-spaced. U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier was not amused.  Judge Barbier reminded the parties that “[t]he Court should not have to waste its time policing such simple rules — particularly in a case as massive and complex as this. … Counsel’s tactic would not be appropriate for a college term paper. It certainly is not appropriate here.”

Think that’s the first time a lawyer has abused formatting requirements?

In Kano v. National Consumer Co-op Bank, 22 F.3d 899 (9th Cir. 1994) the court imposed a $1,500 sanction on the appellant’s attorney after finding the typeface in the appellant’s footnotes was much smaller than permitted by the rule, containing eight lines per inch instead of six.

In Varda Inc. v. Ins. Co. of North America, 45 F.3d 634 (2nd Cir. 1995). The court denied the winning side $1,000 in appellate costs because of its overlong footnotes (such awards are usually routine). The 50-page brief included 58 footnotes, many more than a page long. It would have totaled 70 pages if presented in standard format.

Formatting can be a pain in the rear end but it is an integral part of practicing law.  Come to the LRC Tech Talk this Thursday 10/2 at noon in WH 2A to learn more about formatting appellate briefs. 1Ls – get the jump on your spring semester LWR assignment. Free pizza!


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