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Third Circuit Changes Its Briefs

By Robyn Hagan Cain on May 01, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

An appellate brief is anything but brief.

In the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the body of principal briefs can be up 30 pages (or 14,000 words/1,300 lines), and the body of reply briefs can be up to 15 pages (or 7,000 words/650 lines). That’s a lot of paper, and it doesn’t even include the tables, statements, arguments, certifications, attachments, covers or fancy bindings.

Of course, we’re not talking about only one copy of each brief. Until today, parties were required to file 10 paper copies of each brief under Local Appellate Rule 31.1.

But that has changed.

If you have yet to meet a tree that didn't deserve a hug, you'll be happy to hear that the Third Circuit has reduced the number of appellate brief copies from 10 to 7. In an order issued this week, the appellate court announced that -- unless otherwise directed by the clerk -- "parties need file only 7 paper copies, (an original and 6 copies) of each brief" after May 1, 2013.

The order also states, "When a party is entitled to costs under Fed. R. App. P. 39, costs will be taxed on the number of copies actually filed, not the number required when the bill of costs is filed."

Curious about the impact that reduction will have on the environment? We were, too.

According to Green@Work:

A "pallet" of copier paper (20-lb. sheet weight, or 20#) contains 40 cartons and weighs 1 ton. Therefore, one carton (10 reams) of 100-percent virgin copier paper uses .6 trees; one tree makes 16.67 reams of copy paper or 8,333.3 sheets; one ream (500 sheets) uses six percent of a tree (and those add up quickly!); one ton of coated, higher-end virgin magazine paper (used for magazines like National Geographic and many others) uses a little more than 15 trees (15.36); and one ton of coated, lower-end virgin magazine paper (used for news magazines and most catalogs) uses nearly eight trees (7.68).

By those numbers, the Third Circuit's order to reduce the number of duplicates will save a significant amount of paper. For example, if we only look at the saved paper from those 3 extra copies of the 30-page body of a principal brief, the appellate court can save one tree for every 93 appeals. That should make for a (literal) lot of happy trees.

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