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The Third Circuit Prefers Short Briefs

By Robyn Hagan Cain on February 15, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Brevity is the soul of wit ... and of briefs in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

It seems that the Third Circuit is tired of the lawyers asking for permission to add extra pages to their briefs. Last month, the court issued a standing order warning appellate attorneys against filing motions to exceed the page limitations of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.

What prompted this measure? The Third Circuit Court of Appeals noted that motions to exceed the page/word limitations for briefs were filed in approximately 25 percent of cases on appeal, and that 71 percent of those motions asked permission to exceed the page/word limitations by more than 20 percent. That's a lot of extra reading for an already over-burdened court.

Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 32(a)(7) proscribes the length of appellate briefs. The rule provides both a page limit and a type-volume limit for briefs.

According to Rule 32(a)(7), the page limit for principal briefs may not exceed 30 pages. A principal brief is also deemed acceptable if it contains no more than 14,000 words or uses a mono-spaced type and contains no more than 1,300 lines of text.

The rule generally limits a reply brief to 15 pages, though a reply brief is considered acceptable if it contains no more than 7,000 words or 650 lines of text.

For both principal briefs and reply briefs, headings, footnotes, and quotations count toward the word and line limitations. The corporate disclosure statement, table of contents, table of citations, statement with respect to oral argument, any addendum containing statutes, rules or regulations, and any certificates of counsel do not count toward the limitation.

To combat the extra pages problem, the Third Circuit has established a three-judge Standing Motions Panel to rule on all motions to exceed the page/word limitations.

Lawyers should get advance approval of requests to exceed the page/word limitations whenever possible to avoid the hassle of rewriting and refiling a compliant brief. Any request to exceed the limitations submitted in the absence of an advance request must include an explanation of why the attorney could not have foreseen problems in complying with the limitations in time to seek advance approval from the panel.

Don't cause trouble for yourself -- or your client -- when appealing to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Either seek advance permission to exceed the 32(a)(7) limits, or keep your briefs ... brief.

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