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After Years of Page Limit Chicanery, Texas Switches to Word Limits for Briefs

Starting December 1, lawyers filing briefs with the Texas Supreme Court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the state’s 14 intermediate appellate courts must contend with a new rule that limits the filings by the number of words. Apparently, too much "chicanery" by Texas lawyers who played games with fonts and white space prompted the courts to do away with the previous type of restriction, which was page-based.

The Tex Parte blog reports that the word count limit varies depending on the type of filing (4,500 words for a petition and response to the Supreme Court and CCA; 2,400 words for a reply to a response to the Supreme Court and CCA; 15,000 words for a brief and response in an appellate court; and so on). Sections such as the index and the table of contents do not count toward the word limitations. Lawyers must include a certificate of compliance with each filing stating its word count but, thankfully, are permitted to rely upon "the word count of the computer program used to prepare the document." 

Kendall Gray of the law firm Andrews Kurth writes that since 1997, when revised Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure came into effect with page limits on filings, lawyers in the state "have perfected all manner of chicanery to cram words into the page limits for Texas appellate briefs." The page limits, he says, often led lawyers to file unreadable briefs that relied on narrow fonts, limited white space, excessive footnotes and overly long line lengths. 

The new word limit rule also require the font size used in a filing to be no smaller than 14-point. Gray notes that this may be a mistake because while a 14-point font will make a document more legible, legibility and readability are not the same thing: 

But briefs with 14,000 words need to be readable in addition to being legible. The eye needs to be able to move smoothly across the top shapes of the letters and get from line to line without fixation pauses.

A large body of scientific research indicates exactly what kind of type setting promotes readability and understanding. It is NOT double spaced 14 point font with one inch margins on a line of type that is 6.5 inches long.

According to Gray, the "golden ratio" for typography is between 9 and 11-point font, with shorter line length and line heights. 

Posted by Bruce Carton on December 4, 2012 at 04:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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