How to Ensure Compliance with Court Formatting Requirements

April 18, 2017

In Manhattan, a law firm was sanctioned for incorrect line spacing in its brief.  The fine was $1,048.09 (the cost of filing a correctly formatted document) and resulted from the law firm’s attempt to circumvent the court’s 25-page limit by using 24-point line spacing, rather than the required double-spacing.

Most courts impose certain formatting requirements for papers filed with the court, and a lot of those same courts have specific provisions about sanctioning a party who attempts to evade page limits. For example, the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit of Illinois imposes a 15-double-spaced page limit on motions or responses. That same rule goes on to state that “Neither narrow margins nor any other formatting device shall be employed to evade the page limitations set forth in this Rule,” and lays out the possibility for sanctions, including striking the document or refusal to consider anything beyond the 15 pages.

While there is no hard-and-fast solution for trying to cram in 20 pages of legal argument into 15 pages, law firms and solo practitioners should be careful of trying to skirt the court’s formatting requirements to get those 20 pages in under the limit.  A lot of those same court’s imposing length limitations will have a provision for when a party wants to file a document exceeding the limit.  For example, in California, practitioners can apply to the court for permission to exceed the page limits (see Cal. Rules of Court, Rule 3.1113(e)).  The cost for filing this application is likely less than a fine imposed for exceeding the length limitations or for using crafty line spacing to dodge the limit.

For those wanting to ensure compliance with their court’s formatting requirements, check out Thomson Reuters Drafting Assistant, a program that formats your documents to the standards of the court in which you’re filing.  With this application for Microsoft Word installed on your computer, you will be able to format your document in compliance with the court’s rules, or even use one of the already formatted templates available in the application.