When a court rule limits brief length to 14,000 words, it means it. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently summarily affirmed the district court opinion (.pdf) after the appellant submitted an 18,000 word opening brief and falsely certified that the brief met the 14,000-word limit required under the federal rules. The moral of the story: Know the word limits and stick to them.
California appellate courts have similar brief length requirements to the federal rules. Here are the relevant length limits for briefing in the California court of appeal:
- Absent permission from the Chief Justice or presiding justice (Cal Rules of Ct 8.204(c)(5)), appellate briefs may not be more than 14,000 words, including footnotes. Cal Rules of Ct 8.204(c)(1).
- Appellate briefs must include a certificate by counsel or an unrepresented party stating the number of words in the brief; the person certifying may rely on the word count of the computer program used to prepare the brief. Cal Rules of Ct 8.204(c)(1).
- A brief produced on a typewriter must not exceed 50 pages. Cal Rules of Ct 8.204(c)(2).
- The tables, the certificate, and any attachment under Cal Rules of Ct 8.204(d) are excluded from the length limits. Cal Rules of Ct 8.204(c)(3).
- A combined brief under Cal Rules of Ct 8.216, in which appellant is also a respondent because of a cross-appeal, may not exceed 28,000 words and 100 pages. Cal Rules of Ct 8.204(c)(4).
The California Supreme Court has even tighter brief length restrictions. A petition for review may not exceed 8400 words, including footnotes, if produced on a computer, or 30 pages if produced on a typewriter. Cal Rules of Ct 8.504(d)(1)-(2). As with the courts of appeal, these limits do not include the tables or attachments. Cal Rules of Ct 8.504(d)(3). Also similarly, counsel must include with the petition a certificate that states the number of words in the document. Cal Rules of Ct 8.504(d)(1).
As the Seventh Circuit opinion makes clear: Know the brief length limits and follow them to a tee.
For everything you need to know about filing an appeal in California courts, go to California Civil Appellate Practice. Also check out CEB’s program Handling Civil Appeals and Writs in California State Courts, available On Demand.
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