Replies to merit briefs submitted to the Supreme Court will have to be 1,500 words shorter starting February 16.
The reason? “Experience has shown that the increased volume limit has allowed for the filing of some briefs that repeat previous arguments rather than address only new material presented in intervening briefs,” the clerk of the Court said in an explanatory comment on the change, as noted by Tony Mauro in The National Law Journal.
The reply briefs will be limited to 6,000 words, down from 7,500.
The truth is no one — even Supreme Court justices — likes to read more boring stuff than they have to. “I never read a brief I couldn’t put down in the middle,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said last year.
Another truth? When drafting a brief, lawyers always, always, always think they need more room. It’s not uncommon for a first draft to be 15 pages longer than the court’s limits require, because you just CANNOT eliminate that one argument or these six cases. Of course, eventually you can get it down, and you do and clerks probably only skim 50% of it because you could have cut it down by that much more.
Deanne Maynard, head of the appellate practice at Morrison & Foerster gave the NLJ the honest answer, “Although I’m sure I’ll wish for more words in my next reply brief, I think that 6,000 words is usually enough. A pithy reply is more effective.”
More effective, but so so difficult to actually achieve.
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